Alphabet of Dreams
Fletcher, Susan. New York: Antheneum Books for Young Readers, 2006. 9780689850424
Quantitative Reading Level: 760 Lexile
Qualitative Reading Analysis:
I would rate this as middle high using the “Text Complexity: Qualitative Measures Rubric for Literary Text”. The text has multiple layers of meaning from the simple story of children trying to get home, to the religious aspects of the book, and even the ideas of using someone’s gifts or talents for another’s gain. The narrative structure was fairly simple but there were several flashbacks and the dream sequences were complex. There was quite a bit of figurative language and because the book was historical fiction based in ancient Persia and Judea around the birth of Christ there was a lot of unfamiliar vocabulary. The setting and experiences in the novel would be well outside the experiences of the reader.
Mitra and her brother Babek are beggars but they were not always so. They are of royal blood but when their father’s plot against the King fell apart they ended up exiled and separated from their family. Mitra longs to return to her family and her heritage. She discovers that her little brother can “see” the dreams of others if he has an item that belongs to that person. She decides to use his gift to get the money needed to return to their family. Unfortunately, his gift is discovered by a Magus who uses Babek for his own purposes. Mitra and Babek journey with this Magus and ultimately two others to Bethlehem where Babek’s dreams and the stars foretell that a king will be born.
Reading/ELA, Social Studies
Content area standard:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3 Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.6 Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.9 Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work (e.g., how Shakespeare treats a theme or topic from Ovid or the Bible or how a later author draws on a play by Shakespeare).
There is a definite was of using the standard above which says “Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work”. Because Susan Fletcher draws from the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus and the visit of the Magi which only encompasses a few verses of the Bible and then expands it into novel form students could really look at what she did and how she developed her ideas.
Book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVpzB53ALwI
I am often leery of books that attempt to flesh out Biblical characters. How true will the author be to what the Bible says and how much deviation is okay. This was a very interesting take on the story of the three wise men or Magi. While I am not sure I would agree with all that the author invented I know it is historical fiction and does not claim to be anything more. I appreciated her research into the time period and the setting and it was fun to read.
Subjects/Themes: Coming of age, manipulation, quest for discovery, role of religion
Mitra: the daughter of a nobleman, now in hiding as a boy named Ramin, wants to get back to her family and tries to use her brother’s gift to do so
Babek: can see the dreams of others if he has something that belongs to them, but at what cost to himself?
High Interest Annotation: Have you ever wondered about the three wise men or Magi from the Christmas story? This book gives a possible back story to these mysterious men and a child whose dreams point to the birth of a king.