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Friday, October 11, 2013

Ancient Storytelling with a twist?

Today I decided to share a wonderful girl's book with you. I hope you enjoy it!

Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher


Grade level & category: 

Grades 5-8+; American Literature; Setting: Ancient Persia; School Library Journal Best Books of the Year, 1998; The Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book, 1998; Children's Literature Choice List, 1999; Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice nomination and Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award nomination, both 1999-2000; ALA Notable Book for Older Readers; ALA Best Book for Young Adults, ALA Notable Children's Book, A Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies (CBC), National Council on Social Studies and Children's Book Council; and Junior Library Guild Selection.


Arabian Nights, bitterness, the power of forgiveness, understanding, disabilities, storytelling.

Author biography: 

Susan Fletcher, born Susan Clemmons in 1951 in Pasadena, California, dreamed of becoming a writer since 3rd grade, after studying the life of the famous author Samuel Clemmons, whose pen name was Mark Twain. She learned that Mark Twain had a daughter named Susan Clemmons, and right then Susan Clemmons decided that she would someday become a famous author herself.
Susan went on to write fiction for her high school's literary magazine. She earned a bachelor's degree in English from the University of California and a Master's degree in English from the University of Michigan. She wrote advertising copy for advertising agencies in several jobs in Minnesota and Colorado before moving with her husband to Portland, Oregon. After the birth of her first child she stayed home, began to write for magazines, and then began to write children's books.
Her first novel was published in 1988. In 1989 she was diagnosed with cancer and fought the disease for a year. As a cancer survivor, her feelings about struggle are mirrored in her writings, especially in Shadow Spinner as she describes Marjan's feelings as a crippled orphan in such a compelling way.
Truly an American girl, Susan Fletcher, who was born in California, moved to Ohio; moved back to California; was educated in Michigan, and then lived in Minnesota, Colorado, and Oregon; has achieved her childhood dream of becoming an accomplished author.

Book summary:

Shadow Spinner is a fresh and unique version of the story of the Arabian Nights and the 1001 Tales, but it focuses on the story teller and the people around her rather than simply retelling her stories, as most versions do.
The Sultan's wife has betrayed him with a lover, and so the Sultan has killed the two of them. Unwilling to be alone, but believing that all women are betrayers, the Sultan marries a new girl each day and kills her before morning. No young woman in his kingdom is safe.
Then Shahrazad, the daughter of the Sultan's own vizier, volunteers to be his wife. In the morning, facing death, she asks the Sultan if she can tell her younger sister one last story before she dies. The Sultan agrees, and listens as Shahrazad tells her story to Dunyazad. But as Shahrazad sees the sun rising, she breaks off her story at a particularly exciting spot, promising to finish it the next night if she still lives. The Sultan, entertained and intrigued, grants Shahrazad her life for one more day. And so begins a tense and uncertain pattern - each night Shahrazad tells a story, but there is always the danger that if it does not please the Sultan, death awaits.
After two and a half years, Shahrazad is running out of stories.
Susan Fletcher has written other award winning novels, among which are a trilogy of fantasy novels: Dragon's Milk, Flight of the Dragon Kyn, and Sign of the Dove
Other books you might love if you love this one: Fa Mulan: The Story of a Woman Warrior, by Robert San Souci, The Black Stallion by Walter Farley, Daughter of the Mountains by Louise Rankin, Star of Light by Patricia St. John, King of the Wind: The Story of the Godolphin Arabian by Marguerite Henry,  A Place in the Sun by Jill Rubalcaba, Homesick: My Own Story by Jean Fritz, Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbara Cohen and Babija Lovejoy, The Golden Goblet by Eloise McGraw, Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise McGraw, Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell, The Dragon Prince: A Chinese Beauty and the Beast Tale by Laurence Yep, The Storyteller's Daughter by Cameron Dokey, Aladdin and Other Tales from the Arabian Nights by N.J. Dawood, Sinbad the Sailor and Other Tales from the Arabian Nights by N.J. Dawood, 1001 Arabian Nights by Geraldine McCaughrean.

To talk about: 

A brilliant technique used by the author that drives this "storytelling" tale forward is her wonderful use of a tiny "Lessons for Life and Storytelling" at the beginning of every chapter. Look at each lesson and discuss if it is true, and why. In Chapter 20, Marjan states that you can be crippled in heart, not just in body. Do you agree? Why or why not? In the Bible, read Esther 4:7 – 5:2. Marjan admires Shahrazad as the bravest of women preparing herself to go to the Sultan each night not knowing if she was going to her death. Why did Esther choose to brave death? Why does Shahrazad brave death each night? What do these women, one real and one fictional, have in common?

My favorite quote from the Book:

“When you hear those words—those ending words—you know that's all there is. But real life isn't like that. Its endings are squirmier than the ones in stories. You try to tuck them in neatly and they kick the blankets off. The thing about life is, no matter what happens to you, it goes on. What seems like an ending is really a beginning in disguise.”

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