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Alphabet of Dreams Hardcover – September 1, 2006


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 760L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (September 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689850425
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689850424
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,102,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 7 Up–Mitra and her younger brother, Babak, are refugees in ancient Persia, living in a labyrinth of caves, scraping by with the food they can steal in the nearby marketplace. Disguised as a boy for safety and mobility, Mitra dreams of returning to her former life of opulence before her father's plot against a despotic king scattered the family. When it is discovered that Babak possesses the ability of prophetic dreaming, he comes to the attention of a local magus, Melchior, who takes the children under his protection as he travels westward, following signs in the stars. Joined by two more scholars, each with his own gifts, the caravan continues on a harrowing journey that leads them into the Roman territories, and eventually to the tiny village of Bethlehem. While the focus is always on Mitra, readers experience a growing awareness of who these three wise men actually are and what portentous events Babak is dreaming for them. Fletcher explains in detailed author's notes her long-standing fascination with the story of the Magi and provides insight into the research process. A fine weaver of historical fiction, she creates a fully realized world for her characters and builds a plot full of suspense and anguish. Mitra and Babak's plight is that of any children caught between warring factions. Their journey is one of seeking a place of safety to call home, and, for Mitra, it is a coming-of-age quest that leaves her changed forever.–Connie C. Rockman, Stratford Library Association, CT
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In a richly imagined novel, Fletcher dovetails her own characters and plot with an utterly familiar New Testament story. Mitra comes from Persian royalty, but most of her family is dead. Now disguised as a boy, she steals food and shelters in burial caves with her younger brother, Babak. Political enemies of their father pursue them, as does the magus Melchior, who has heard of Babak's gift for dreaming others' dreams. The complications facing a pubescent girl living as a boy and the rhythms of desert life form one intriguing dimension to the novel; another is the journey set in motion when Babak dreams of a portentous star, and the siblings follow Melchior and his two magi companions as they seek the king it represents. Teens will recognize their own longings in proud, headstrong, and passionate Mitra; steer slightly older readers to Anne Provost's In the Shadow of the Ark (2004), another novel about a resilient young woman swept along by biblical events. GraceAnne DeCandido
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

You feel like you are right there with the characters.
MLA
If you're anything like me and you'd like to unravel the mystery behind "Alphabet of Dreams" on your own, stop reading this review and know only this: Excellent book.
E. R. Bird
Susan Fletcher did an excellent job with her historical research (see the notes in the back).
T. Tanner

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on August 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Blurbs and book descriptions can be great. If you see, for example, an enticing cover in the bookstore, blurbs have the power to make or break your potential purchase. If the description sounds remarkable, the blurb is the book's friend. If the description sounds deathly deadly dull, the blurb and book are foes. But you see, I don't read blurbs. I like books to surprise me. To have stories and plots that jump out of nowhere and throttle my attention soundly. In short, I like to know as little about a book as possible before I read it. And since my focus in life is to concentrate wholeheartedly on children's books, blurbs are avoided at all times at all costs. Good thing too. Had I known the plot of "Alphabet of Dreams" beyond the initial premise I might have labeled this book too soon. As it was, my slow realization of what this story was about liberated me to feel especially proud of myself and proud of author Susan Fletcher for so skillfully drawing out the story's elegant elements. If you're anything like me and you'd like to unravel the mystery behind "Alphabet of Dreams" on your own, stop reading this review and know only this: Excellent book. Excellent plot. Excellent characters. A classy affair through and through. Nuff said.

First sentence: "When we lived in the City of the Dead, my brother dreamed mostly of food". Little wonder. Mitra and her little brother Babak are displaced members of a Persian royal family. Due to their father's failed plot to overthrow King Phraates, the two have been separated from the rest of their family and live as beggers in the city of Rhagae. That is, until fourteen-year-old Mitra (dressed as a boy and going by the name of Ramin) discovers that Babak has a dangerous gift.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By S. H. Britton on December 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This story pulled me in deep and wouldn't let go. It got richer and thicker as it went along. The best of it to me was the love story at the heart of the book. The main character, Mitra, goes around as a boy for safety reasons. Then a boy meets her and instantly knows she is a girl, even though no one else has seen through her disguise. And he loves her. This idea, that someone who loves you is someone who can see you, and how good it is to be seen, are beautifully and convincingly rendered.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By guitarchick24 VINE VOICE on December 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Susan Fletcher seems to be a master at writing quality children's books. When I say quality, I mean her work is beautifully written and, while appealing to the young audience she writes for, it can also inspire and make them think deeper about the world around them.

"Alphabet of Dreams" is the story of Mitra, a displaced Persian noble of about 13 or 14, and her younger brother Babak. As the story begins, Mitra (who poses as "Ramin," a boy) and Babak live hand-to-mouth and Mitra longs for her family, supposedly in far-off Palmyra, and the genteel life she used to know. When by chance Babak's talent for prophetic dreams comes to life, Mitra uses his ability to help them gain money for food. But the talent proves treacherous when Babak and Mitra are forced to accompany a caravan of scholars on an enigmatic journey across the desert, while the king's spies try to track them down.

While Babak is the "dreamer" in the family, Mitra is the one with grandiose longings and an inability to accept the truth of their situation. Most of her actions are spurred by her desire to go to Palmyra to find the rest of their family, and she eventually learns the meaning of home and true, attainable dreams.

In fact dreams are really what drive this book. Most of the main characters have some dream that drives them, whether it's to find a family, move beyond their station in life, or - subtly interwoven in the story's fabric - to find the Christ child. You suspect early on that this is a retelling of the story of the Magi, but Fletcher lets you piece it together on your own.

She does a great job of sticking to the Biblical and historical record, as well.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Portianay VINE VOICE on October 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
What an original take on an old, old story! I literally could not put it down, until the end! Even then, I devoured her explanatory notes afterwards.

This is a topic I teach frequently, and while I may differ on some minor points, the author has done an outstanding job of fictionalizing characters we wonder about so often.

This book is so powerful, that I doubt another Christmas in my life will ever transpire without my looking at the creche and considering Melchior's pride, that tiny scrap of linen in the boot, etc.

Well done!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By bookworm1858 VINE VOICE on March 4, 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback
While browsing at my library, I came across this older YA book and thought it looked intriguing. I knew nothing about the plot or the author's writing when I checked it out, which made for an unusual read. As a YA blogger, I'm usually very aware of the latest books and have an idea of what to expect but this is an older one so I had zero expectations.

As I read this back in December though, I realized how appropriate it was for the season as it is a twist on the story of the Three Wise Men arriving at the birth of Jesus. However the Magi are secondary characters, to Mitra and her younger brother Babak. They are currently surviving as thieves until Mitra discovers that Babak can seemingly dream prophecies, which can be and is monetized. Then their fortunes become entangled with the Magi as they journey to seek a king.

I thought the beginning was solid. Mitra and Babak are of royal blood but are in fear for their lives as their father's failed rebellion against the king leads the way to retribution. Babak is a sweet little boy and Mitra is a protective older sister, disguised as a boy for her own safety, who longs for her old life and what she sees as her birthright. She doesn't always make the best decisions, being young and somewhat selfish but she's understandable.

However as the book progressed, I found the story becoming muddied. Mitra is in an imperfect disguise as a boy, which is discovered by several of the guys she meets and she soon starts wondering about two of them and contemplating a future with either. One guy just "knows" her but she wishes for the other guy to discover her secret as well. It was annoying and pointless to me. The journey meanders too with many characters introduced but with few of them impacting the story much.
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