Clever Ali

Three-time Newbery Honor Book author Nancy Farmer joins bestselling artist Gail de Marcken in this enchanting, original tale told in the tradition of the Arabian Nights.

Ali is finally old enough to join his father in tending pigeons for the evil Sultan of Cairo. The boy is given a pet pigeon, but warned NEVER to feed it too much, lest it become spoiled and lazy. But Ali feels sorry for his hungry pet and disobeys. When the overfed bird becomes greedy and ruins a plate of the Sultan’s cherries, Ali is in big trouble! Now he has only three days to replace the Sultan’s 600 cherries from the snowy mountains of Syria. Only then can he save his father from the dreaded Oubliette: a deep pit where a giant demon is waiting!


“De Marcken’s jewel-like watercolors adorned with Arabic calligraphy and mosaic patterns are well suited to this sweet and gently humorous tale.”


“This beautifully written story is a treat for the eyes and ears.”

School Library Journal

“Forget all of Nancy Farmer’s honors. One only need read this slim story to realize she is a consummate writer…. and the whole is illustrated with wonderful thought and grace by Gail de Marcken’s lovely watercolor pictures and Arabic marginal notations. It is a beautiful book.”

Children's Literature

Awards & Accolades


Junior Library Guild Premier Selection


Book Links Lasting Connection of 2006


California Collections (Elementary), 2009