Storky’s Journey Home is a truly beautiful book for children aged from about three to about 10, and it is beautiful in more ways than one. The tale of the little bird who gets lost on the long annual pilgrimage from Europe to the warmer climate of Israel is captivating, and the series of hazards of the journey before she reaches Israel and eventually finds her family, touches the emotions.
But Storky’s story is not only a delight to read, the book itself is a delight to hold and look through. The text is presented against a backdrop of colorful illustrations. Yinon Ptahia is a wonderful artist, and he gives us a perfect Storky – a winsome baby bird with large innocent eyes. Each of the 24 pages has a picture that will help a child visualize everything that happens to Storky on her long journey.
When she does reach Israel, Storky comes across a group of children and is surprised to see that they all look different from one another. One child, Spiegelman tells us, “pointed towards her and yelled “Hey, that’s a stork. My father told me that when he lived in Ethiopia, every time the storks passed over him, he would stop his work in the field, look up to the sky and say: ‘Shimla. Shimla, agarachin Yerusalem dahna? Stork, stork, is there peace in Jerusalem, our land?’”
Then Storky meets a sparrow who explains that the Jewish people returned to the land after many years away, and they came from so many faraway countries that they all look different. When Storky says: “Thank you, Sparrow,” he replies, “In Israel they call me Dror. It means freedom.”
The inspiration behind Storky’s Journey Home
NACHSHON MEIR SPIEGELMAN, who is a high school educator and certified tour guide, is studying at Bar-Ilan University for a master’s degree in comparative literature and creative writing. Born in Israel, he grew up in the small yishuv of Hashmonaim. Today he lives in Ra’anana with his wife and two children.
I asked him what inspired him to write Storky’s Journey Home. “I’m a Zionist,” he told me. “The story of Storky is more than a product of my own imagination – it embodies the hopes and experiences of my ancestors. My great-grandparents,” he explained, “were Hebrew teachers in America. When my parents made aliyah, my grandparents from both sides followed. So this story came to me in a very personal and intimate kind of way.”
“The story of Storky is more than a product of my own imagination – it embodies the hopes and experiences of my ancestors.”Nachshon Meir Spiegelman
I asked where the idea of Storky herself came from. “The seed of the story,” he told me, “was planted in my mind while studying for my tour guide course. The annual bird migration to Israel is a great natural phenomenon, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Later, this inspirational seed formed the basis for my story, which focuses on the special connection Jews have had with the migrating birds – who, like them, have gone back and forth among different communities around the world.”
At one point in his story of Storky, Spiegelman quotes Bialik’s poem:
Welcome back to my window, you lovely bird
Please sing and tell
About the far off, wondrous land:
Is it in peace; is it well?
The poem and the story of how Jews in Ethiopia would gaze at the storks flying above and ask them if all was well in Jerusalem was, Spiegelman explained: “told to me first-hand by my brother-in-law, who made the journey to Israel from Ethiopia when he was just a boy.”
In Storky’s Journey Home, Spiegelman succeeds in interweaving into Storky’s adventures the deeper and even more emotional story of the Jewish people, who also undertook a hazardous journey and eventually found their way to Jerusalem and the Promised Land. The story of Storky, enthralling at any time, has special significance during the Passover season.
Storky’s Journey HomeBy Nachshon Meir SpiegelmanIllustrated by Yinon PtahiaThe Israeli Center for Libraries26 pages; $12.99