by Susan Fletcher
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9--Marjan, a young storyteller in ancient Persia, inadvertently takes a new story to Shahrazad. The Queen has been entertaining her husband for nearly 1000 nights and she's growing desperate. The Sultan loves the tale, which he vaguely remembers from his childhood, but requests the ending. Shahrazad makes the girl a part of the harem in order to get it, but learns that she has told all that she knows. Marjan leaves the harem, a dangerous move indeed, and tracks down an old man at the bazaar who was the source. She makes some surprising connections between the outside world and the harem and, in a final face to face with the Sultan, reveals much about herself, the power of story, and the grace of redemption. There are no weak spots in the telling of this tale. Even the minor characters make real impressions. The voices are clear and the dialogue works beautifully. As strong as these points are, it is the structure that really makes this book sing. Everything is carefully laid out for readers in a measured fashion that keeps the pages turning. The "Lessons for Life and Storytelling" that open each chapter boldly state the truths any storyteller knows and are echoed in the narrative. Marjan's crippled foot perfectly mirrors the Sultan's crippled trust. In both of their cases, it is a story that breaks through the flinty walls around their hearts. After much tension and adventure, there are believable, happy endings all around. An elegantly written novel that will delight and entertain even as it teaches, just as any good tale does.
Patricia A. Dollisch, DeKalb County Public Library, Decatur, GA
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