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Children's Fiction General

Sindbad's Secret

From the Tales of the Thousand and One Nights

illustrated by Ludmila Zeman

Initial publish date
May 2011
General, Elephants, Ancient Civilizations
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 2011
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2003
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 6 to 9
  • Grade: 1 to 4


Sindbad the Sailor has escaped death many times and is planning to live the rest of his life on dry land. But the sea beckons, and he sets out for one final adventure. As he sails from a beautiful far-off land where people drink scented tea, a storm destroys the ship. Sindbad finds refuge on an island, but it holds little safety for him. Ivory traders make him their slave. It seems that he will live out his days in servitude. But the power of love, and his compassion for a baby elephant, give him the strength he needs for survival. His voyage offers him the answer to life’s greatest secret, and finally he can rest.

Ludmila Zeman has retold these beloved adventures from the Thousand and One Nights in her gorgeous trilogy, Sindbad, Sindbad in the Land of the Giants, and Sindbad’s Secret, incorporating design details and maps that place the stories into their historical context

About the author


  • Short-listed, Governor General's Literary Award - Children (English)

Contributor Notes

Ludmila Zeman has written and illustrated several acclaimed picture books, including a trilogy about the ancient hero Gilgamesh. The final book in the trilogy, The Last Quest of Gilgamesh, received the Governor General’s Award for Illustration. Born in the former Czechoslovakia, Ludmila Zeman now lives in Montreal.

Editorial Reviews

“Richly layered and textured, this glowing work transports the reader into the world of the centuries-old tales. With lush patterns, Ludmila Zeman retells Sindbad’s epic voyage in an animated contemporary fashion.”
–From the jury for the Governor General’ s Literary Awards

“Zeman’s richly colored illustrations, details, coherent, and carefully composed…create an enticing introduction to a collection of tales that inspired writers from Hans Christian Andersen to Robert Louis Stevenson.”
School Library Journal
“…this buoyantly told tale [is] lavishly illustrated with intricately detailed paintings.”
School Library Journal
“Dark, richly detailed pencil, colored-pencil, and watercolor illustrations add a Persian flair…. [O]n the whole, Sinbad’s adventures will find favor.”
The Horn Book Guide
“…sumptuously illustrated…its pages are as intricate and elaborate as ancient tapestries or flying carpets…”
The Globe and Mail
“Zeman…preserve[s] much of the exoticism and excitement of the original [Sindbad stories]. Glowing pencil and watercolor illustrations are done in the style of ancient Persian miniatures.”
The Washington Post
“Ludmila Zeman has created another beautiful volume…. The award-winning illustrator has once again used luminous colour and rich texture to create highly detailed paintings… [T]he unusual cinematic vantage points and the stunning details…challenge the viewer to take a closer look at their work. It is apparent that The Thousand and One Nights is one of Zeman’s favorite books as she has so beautifully created the fabulous world of Sindbad and his very lively and vivacious elephant friends. Very highly recommended.”
CM Magazine
“…a brilliantly illustrated picture book…”
Children’s Bookwatch
“…detailed illustrations will captivate even reluctant readers – perfect for boys…”
Canadian Living
“…manages to preserve much of the exoticism and excitement of the originals.”
Book World
“Every page is a luxurious weaving of intense colour and delicate detail. An aura of mystery and exoticism suffuses the art, partly because of the extraordinary magical subjects, and partly because of the deep, rich hues that cause each page to glow.”
The Toronto Star
“The plot is packed, and the pace is quick…. The pencil and watercolor illustrations and text boxes are framed in ornately detailed borders, and each composition…features magical scenery…. Zeman’s combination of breathless storytelling and color-drenched images successfully establishes this picture book as a wonder tale…”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“This striking combination of dramatic storytelling and compelling illustration make a fine introduction to the Arabian Nights Entertainments for young children.”
The Peace Arch News
“Looking at Zeman’s framed pencil and watercolour illustrations is like viewing paintings in a museum. The decorative borders surrounding the illustrations and the elaborate Islamic-themed designs gracing the endpapers make this book a work of art.”
Montreal Review of Books
“The exotic story and pictures immediately entranced, and led us to further explore other of the famous Arabian tales.”
The Guelph Mercury
“Sinbad’s Secret is a superbly told and richly illustrated story of adventure and hardship, greed and kindness, loneliness and love. The beauty in this book lies in its illustrations.”
The Hamilton Spectator 

“Whispering mysteries, songs of the ages, the wonders of wandering —they’re all in Ludmila Zeman’s illustrated versions of Sindbad, Sindbad’s Secret and Sindbad in the Land of Giants… These sumptuously illustrated books, their pages glowing with crimson, turquoise, amber and gold, … present a fantastical world of monsters, frantic escapes and feats of daring —all of which our hero Sindbad endures with glorious success.“The classic The Tales of the Thousand and One Nights is a potent source for today’s epic fantasy.”
—The Toronto Star

Other titles by Ludmila Zeman