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The Enchanted Storks

A Tale of Bagdad

Book illustration

Retold by Aaron Shepard
Illustrated by Alisher Dianov

Children’s Book-of-the-Month Club selection

If favor now should greet my story,
Allah must receive the glory.

The Calif and his trusted Vizier love to disguise themselves as merchants and wander through their beloved city of Bagdad. One day a peddler in the marketplace sells them a jewelled snuffbox with a magic spell tucked inside. They’re delighted when the spell changes them into storks—until they find they can’t change back!

A wicked brother, an evil sorcerer, and a lovely princess—all are part of this classic fairy tale, created in 19th‑century Germany yet now told by storytellers of the Middle East.

Picture book • Ages 7 & up

Aaron Shepard is the award-winning author of The Baker’s Dozen, The Sea King’s Daughter, The Monkey King, and many more children’s books, while his Web site is known internationally as a prime resource for folktales, storytelling, and reader’s theater. Once a professional storyteller, Aaron specializes in lively retellings of folktales and other traditional literature, which have won him honors from the American Library Association, the New York Public Library, the Bank Street College of Education, the National Council for the Social Studies, and the American Folklore Society.

Alisher Dianov began illustrating professionally at the age of 15 in his native Russia and now lives in the United States. He is also illustrator of Aaron’s Forty Fortunes.


Hardcover ~ 1995

Other Editions

Korean—Korea Froebel, 2003

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Book cover


“Well-paced and judiciously seasoned with Middle Eastern flavor, the story is both accessible and exotic. Dianov, a Russian watercolorist making his American publishing debut, adds striking, ornate depictions. The overall effect is splendid.”—Publishers Weekly, Apr. 17, 1995

“An original 19th-century German creation with an ‘Ali Baba’ air, this fairy tale has been assimilated into Muslim culture and deserves an audience here. . . . Perhaps this gorgeous panoply will balance the demonizing of Bagdad in current events.”—Patricia Lothrop Green, School Library Journal, Apr. 1995.

“The tales of Wilhelm Hauff—almost unknown in the U.S.—belong on every child’s shelf. Shepard retells ‘The Caliph Stork,’ a stylized imitation of the Arabian Nights that has become a part of Middle Eastern folklore. . . . Dianov displays his sensitivity to the oriental charms of the tale, paying as much attention to the details of costume and architecture as to the characters themselves.”—Kirkus Reviews, Mar. 15, 1995

“Makes good use of its Islamic setting in both story and art. A detailed author’s note adds to the book’s usefulness. A worthy addition to folklore collections, and one that should fill a niche.”—Ilene Cooper, Booklist, June 1, 1995

“Written with a storyteller’s touch.”—Jane Kurtz, Knight-Ridder News Service, Apr. 2, 1995

“Aaron’s prose, as always, is storyteller-friendly, and his source notes are excellent.”—Katy Rydell, Stories, Spring 1995

“A story that can be told to young and old alike. . . . The book is a delight to read and to look at. This is truly a gem.”—Michael R. Medley, Guild Gazette (South Coast Storyteller’s Guild), Spring 1995

“This tale of magic, intrigue, and romance will appeal to parents as well as children.”—Sarah Sue Goldsmith, Sunday Advocate Magazine, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, June 11, 1995

“A satisfying and beautifully illustrated story that young listeners will want to hear again and again.”—Yellow Brick Road, May–June 1996

“Magical and very tellable.”—Marilyn McPhie, The Story Bag, Oct.–Nov. 1996

Sample Text

Hear This Sample Text (2:57 minutes)

Reaching the edge of the city, the Calif and his Vizier strolled through the parks and orchards beyond. At last they stopped to rest by a quiet lake.

“I wonder if my new box holds any snuff,” said the Calif.

He opened the tiny box and found it filled with the pungent powder. “But what is this?” he said, pulling a piece of parchment from the underside of the lid.

The Vizier craned his neck to see. “What does it say, Glorious Lord?”

The Calif read,

A sniff of snuff, for wings to soar.

Casalavair for hands once more.

“Why, I believe the snuff is magic!” said the Calif. He looked longingly at the sky. “I have always wanted to see my city from the air.”

“Perhaps we should be cautious,” said the Vizier. “What if the charm fails to change us back?”

“If the snuff works, then surely the magic word will too,” said the Calif. “Come, let us try our luck!”

He held out the box, and each took a pinch of snuff. Then together they inhaled the powder.

A flurry of wings, beaks, and feathers—and there in place of the Calif and his Vizier stood two storks.

“Wonderful!” the Calif said, snapping and clattering his beak—for that is how storks talk. A human would have heard only Calap! Calap! But since both the Calif and his Vizier were now birds, Ali ben Manzar understood perfectly.

Calap! Calap! “Quite amazing!” replied the Vizier.

Calap! Calap! “Let us test our wings!” said the Calif.

The two storks rose into the air, circling higher and higher. Spread below were meadows, ornamental gardens, orchards, and fields of crops. The great river Tigris flowed slowly across the plain, sprouting canals along its length. And basking on the banks of the river was Bagdad, capital of all Islam, City of Peace.

“Breathtaking, is it not?” called the Calif. “Come, let us fly over the city.”

Soon they soared above the streets, canals, bridges, and clay-brick buildings of Bagdad. In courtyard and bazaar, people bought and sold, worked and rested, fought and prayed, stole and chased, kissed and parted, laughed and wept.

“Truly,” said the Calif, “a stork knows more of this city than the Calif himself.”

As evening drew near, the Vizier called, “Glorious Lord, we had best return to the palace.”

Back they flew to the lake, and landed by the snuffbox. The Calif once more read the parchment, then cried, “Casalavair!”

And there stood—two storks.

“Casalavair!” called the Calif again. “Casalavair! Casalavair!”

But storks they remained.

“Ali ben Manzar, you try it!” said the terrified Calif.

“Casalavair! Casalavair!” cried the no-less-terrified Vizier.

But no matter how they called and hopped and flapped their wings, nothing changed.

Sample text copyright © 1995 Aaron Shepard. Top illustration courtesy of Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Company. Illustration copyright © 1995 by Alisher Dianov.

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