Shadow Spinner, by Susan Fletcher

Book Report by Lauren P.

Book Report by Levi Y.

Book Report by Samantha H.

Review by Teacher Wigowsky

Book Report by Lauren P.

Shadow Spinner, by Susan Fletcher

Book Report by Lauren P.

Sharazad was Marjan’s hero. Marjan lived with her Auntie Chava and Uncle Eli. One day on a trip to the harem(selling things) Marjan told a story to the harem children. A girl a little older than Marjan listened to the story. After the story was over the girl asked Marjan if she knew other stories, Marjan said yes.

The girl took Marjan down many hallways and secret passages. Finally the girl introduced herself as Dunyazad, Sharazad’s younger sister. Dunyazad was taking Marjan to Sharazad.

When they got there Dunyazad told Marjan to tell Sharazad the tale she had told the children. Marjan started telling the tale to Sharazad but Sharazad stopped her. She had already told that tale to the Sultan. Marjan told tale after tale to Sharazad. Finally Marjan told a tale that Sharazad had not told.

That night Marjan could not sleep. She was too worried about Sharazad. What if the story was to boring? She waited impatiently for morning.

“She lives” the best words Marjan had ever heard. The Sultan did not think the story was boring. He had not killed Sharazad, as he had killed all his other wives. Sharazad had been telling stories for nearly three and a half years. In that time she had given birth to three sons. One just that past week.

A eunuch came, to take Marjan to Sharazad, forever. Auntie Chava gave Marjan her hair comb. Then Marjan left.

Marjan was washed and scrubbed and then brought to meet the Khaton (the Sultan’s mother). The Khaton was not fond of Sharazad.

When the Khaton excused Marjan, she went to her chamber. After awhile Dunyazad came to fetch Marjan. As it turned out there was more to the story that Marjan had told Sharazad then she knew.

Later Marjan went to explore up on a terrace she met Zaynab. They spent some time together before Marjan had to go back to her room. When they were sharing a drink, Marjan and Zaynab heard the Khaton and one of her maids talking. The Khaton said that once Sharazad ran out of stories, she would be killed. Then her servant could tell the stories.

The next day Marjan could tell that Sharazad and Dunyazad had not found the story teller who Marjan had heard the first part of the story from. Sharazad and Dunyazad help Marjan sneak out into the marketplace. She looks for the storyteller who told her the story. Finally found a boy who could bring her to the storyteller. The boy brought her to him. After hearing most of the story, Marjan had to leave.

She told every word of the part of the story she had heard to Sharazad. Sharazad was safe for another night. But since Marjan had not gotten all the story she would have to go back the next day.

This time Dunyazad went with her. They brought some of Zaynab’s pigeons who could carry the rest of the story back to the palace. When it was time to leave, the girls could not go back the same way as they had came in jars. They had to sneak in as part of a group of musicians. But they were able to get the story to Sharazad.

The Khaton wanted to see Marjan. But when Marjan went to see her, the Khaton trapped her. Days later, one of the children who had listened to Marjan’s story the first day. She told Marjan to go to Zaynab, she would help her escape.

Zaynab gave Marjan some money and then lowered her down in a basket. She went to the story tellers house. She stayed there for awhile and then she had an idea.

She went back to the palace and told them that she wanted to tell the Sultan a story. Marjan told the Sultan how a merman king was killing a wife a night and that one night a mermaid sang him a song, and stopped in the middle of it. So the next night she sang some more. And this went on for quite a while. But after awhile the mermaid didn’t know any more of the song, so she found someone who did.

The Sultan listened to Marjan and then he told Sharazad that she only had to tell stories when she wanted to, then he had a real marriage ceremony. And as for Marjan, she went and lived as Zaynab’s helper in the Sultan’s, brother’s, old palace.

Shadow Spinner
By Susan Fletcher
Book Report by Levi

This book is about a girl named Marjan, and her adventure of helping the great story teller Shahrazad in her most dispirit time.

Marjan’s parents were both dead so she lived with her Aunt Chava and her Uncle Eli (which weren’t related to her in any way. They took her in when her mother died ).

This story begins with Marjan going to the harem with her aunt to sell things in the market. When they enter Marjan remembers the stories she had heard about the Sultan killing his wives every night because he had caught one of them with another man and has been killing them every night then getting a new one in the mourning. Then came Shahrazad. She would tell the Sultan a story every night to keep herself alive, but then stop in the middle of the story the next mourning. The Sultan, of course, wanted to hear the rest of the story so he let her live another night to find out what happens.

While her aunt is selling her jewels to earn money she sees some children, and begins to tell them a story (she liked to tell stories and wanted to be just like Shahrazad). Marjan notices that a girl older than her is listening to. When the other children leave the girl (who’s name is Dunyazad) takes Marjan to to see her sister Shahrazad.

Well Marjan finds out that after 989 nights of storytelling Shahrazad is out of stories. Soon Marjan tells her a story that Shahrazad had never heard before. She memorizes it and then later tells it to the Sultan.

Marjan is summoned to he harem, and finds out that her story had worked. She also finds out that the Sultan remembered hearing it when he was very young and wants to hear the rest of it. The part that Marjan had told her would only last thee days. Marjan had heard it when she was very young, and had heard it from a blind storyteller but was pulled away by her aunt before she could hear the rest. The bad part is that Shahrazad told the Sultan that she knew the rest of the story.

Later Marjan goes out to find some fresh air and stumbles upon a terrace. She soon finds out that the terrace belonged to the Khatun, or Sultan’s mother. She overhears the people speaking. they are planing to get rid of Shahrazad. She also finds out that a woman named Zaynab lives on the roof. She keeps the messenger pigeons.

They need to get the rest of the story so they send Marjan hidden in a chest sent out for repairs. She goes out to try to find the storyteller. She finds a boy that takes her to him. She gets some of the story but doesn’t have enough time to get all of it.

Shahrazad survives another night. The next time they go out they go in olive jars and Dunyazad goes with Marjan along with some messenger pigeons. They see the boy again and get taken to the storyteller. The story teller tells them that he will send them the story piece by piece until it is done. The plan they had to get back into the harem didn’t work. So they dress up as boys and go into the harem with a musical band.

Marjan gets caught and taken to the Khatun. The Khatun thinks that Shahrazad has a lover, and won’t accept Marjan’s word that she doesn’t. They lock her up. Then she gets away and is told to go to Zaynab. There she gets lowered into a basket to the street.

She goes to the story tellers house and finds out he is really Abu Muslem the man that started to smuggle girls out of the country when the Sultan started to kill his wives.

Marjan then decides to go back to the palace. She surrenders herself. She goes to the Sultan and tells him a story. It is the story of himself, and how she all tied into the escapes, but not using any direct names. She also tells him that Shahrazad loved him even though he had been killing off his wives.

The Sultan talks with Shahrazad that night and in the Mourning they get married (the Sultan had never really had a wedding because he kept killing his wife every mourning). Also Dunyazad gets married to the Sultan’s brother.

As for Marjan she leaves with the story teller to start a new life away from the danger of the Khatun.

A BOOK REPORT on the Wonderful
Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher
Written by Samantha H.

1. Shahrazad = woman who has to tell a story a night to her husband, the mean sultan. If she does not tell the stories, she will die.
2. Sultan = king of the harem
3. Marjan = the servant/friend to Shahrazad
4. Old story-teller Abu Muselem = the old man who gives the story to Marjan
5. Pigeon woman Zaynab = woman who lends her pigeons to Abu Muselem so he can send the story to Marjan
6. Gold Eunuch = guard who makes sure nobody leaves the harem (he’s on Marjan’s side)
7. Dunyazad = sister of Shahrazad
8. Khatun = sister of the Sultan and guard of the prisons
9. Ayaz = helper of Abu Muselem

Shahrazad was forced to tell a story a night to the Sultan of the harem. Why would the Sultan want to do that? One wife betrayed him. So to prove no other woman would EVER betray him, he killed a wife a night, and marries a new woman every morning. When it was Shahrazad’s turn to marry the Sultan, she asked to tell stories instead of losing her life. The Sultan agreed, for he was amused by stories. There was only one problem: where would Shahrazad get the story her husband wanted?

Marjan knew an old story teller, who lived behind the gates to the bazaar. Marjan would dangerously leave the harem to get the stories. It was dangerous to leave the harem because it was against the law. If she were caught, she would be put to death.

Marjan would sneak into the bazaar and find the little boy Ayaz. Abu Muselem wanted the directions to his home kept secret, so he had Ayaz blindfold Marjan before taking her to him.

With her always leaving the harem, Marjan soon was caught, then beaten, and thrown in jail. Shahrazad then took the risk and sent secret people to set Marjan free.

When Marjan was set free, she still worried about Shahrazad. What if she didn’t get the story? Marjan couldn’t bear the thought. She soon returned to the Sultan. Marjan had to try something, to save her and many other women from death. But Marjan knew the penalty for leaving would be DEATH!

She opened the doors to the Sultan’s room. But before he could say anything, she asked for one more request: to tell him a story. The Sultan agreed; however, he had two conditions: there had to be truth in this story, and it had to say why she had run away. They agreed.

The story Marjan told was exactly the same as in real life. The only difference was she changed the real life characters into the forms of mermaids and mermen. She told of how the king merman made his wife tell a story each night, but she didn’t know the story. So the wife had her servant go into danger to get it.

When Marjan finished, the Sultan was silent. He had realized that what he had done was wrong. He sent the guards to take Marjan, the story-teller, the gold eunuch, and Zaynab all to prison. He wanted to be alone for one last story with Shahrazad.

The next morning, the four prisoners listened for the paperboy: “Extra, Extra. Come to the wedding of the Sultan and Shahrazad.”

This was an official wedding! But the wedding wasn’t all that great for the four of them! For seven days they waited to be released, but nobody came. Finally, on the eighth day, Dunyazad came. She handed them each a bag with gifts inside. Then she led them to camels. They would be taken across the mountains to a safer area, away from the Khatun. There they would start their own kingdom, and somehow live happily ever.


Book Review about Shadow Spinner, by Teacher Wigowsky

Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher
Review by Mr. Wigowsky (teacher)
for primary grades (3-5)

Where did Shahrazad get all those stories that she told the Sultan in The Thousand and One Nights? Susan Fletcher provides the answer: from all available sources. I always thought she just made them up, using her creative imagination. The author lets us know that storytelling is an art that takes years to develop, years of research into old stories. She also emphasizes the mental skill of memory; you have to practice, just like an actress practices her lines.

My interest in Shadow Spinner became more involved when I realized the author was introducing another storyteller into her mysterious web. I wanted to know who this Marjan was and how she became a storyteller; I wanted to follow her into the Sultan’s palace to meet Shahrazad. Every awkward step that Marjan takes because of her crippled foot becomes a step toward becoming a storyteller. At first there is hesitation and shyness; the words that Marjan tries to relate to Shahrazad are unsure, full of doubt and shallow. Then Marjan becomes more confident and her story flows like a river in a dry desert. We become part of Marjan’s life and we feel her pain as she hobbles from place to place, trying to help Shahrazad recover an important story.

What is this important story about? And who knows this story? It’s a story that the Sultan desperately needs to hear. And only one person remembers this story – a mysterious storyteller. Finding the story and the storyteller becomes the major plot of the story. Marjan becomes the messenger who carries this story to Shahrazad. The story in the end saves Marjan’s life and Shaharazad’s life.

What is this important story all about? Why is it so important to the Sultan? These questions are the driving force behind Susan Fletcher’s Shadow Spinner.

Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher
Review by Teacher Wigowsky
For Middle School grades (6-8)

How do you tell an old story and bring new life to it?
Ans. Introduce a new main character and add a new twist.
How do you put a classic like The Thousand and One Nights in a framework that makes the picture look like an original and not just a reproduction?
Ans. Provide a new answer to the question of who the real storyteller was.
How do you reveal the secrets of the storyteller’s craft while weaving a tale within a tale?
Ans. Start each chapter with a framed “prologue-insight,” which not only tells the reader what the chapter is about, but also gives an insight into the art of arousing curiosity in the reader’s mind.
Susan Fletcher in Shadow Spinner spins an old tale with such skill and dexterity that it almost feels like a window is provided in each of the 23 chapters through which the reader watches the writer steadily weave a fantastic tale on the loom of old Arabic legends, folklore, and culture. You first see the shadow of the author stealthily introduce her young female main character by using the first person narrative form: “You can never really know what’s going to happen to a person in this life. What actually became of me, no one would have guessed.” Even though the author never uses the old Persian word “KISMET,” which means fate or destiny, the entire story of young Marjan is framed by that Arabian concept.

When Marjan meets Shahrazad, fate brings together two great storytellers, one who was great in “spinning shadows” (which are like an echo of a familiar sound, or a retelling of an old tale) to neighborhood children, and the other who was reweaving threads of familiar tales to the Sultan. Both learn the lesson that “stories can save your life.” Marjan learns that lesson after finally trusting her instincts and inner talent for story-telling; Shahrazad learns it after admitting her dependence on other storytellers to assist her with the storytelling process.

It’s amazing how the thread of old tales and the thread of a new tale are so interwoven that it appears to be a patterned two-sided magical carpet that whisks through magical lands of bygone days – it could be ancient Persia, Arabia, China, or India – and darts through alleys, bazaars, humble homes, palaces, and yes, even harems. The word “harem” seems to evoke an image not only of an oriental palace with a group of women serving a common king or sultan, but it also has a feeling of something “forbidden” to an outsider. When the crippled Marjan enters the exclusive harem of the Sultan, she quickly learns how to survive as a woman in a male-dominated Arab world. She uses her mind and quick-thinking wit to overcome her crippling handicap; she admires Shahrazad for “never giving up”; she befriends a crazy pigeon-lover named Zaynab, who proves to be very helpful at crucial times; she learns to trust people who help her out of dangerous situations; yes, this story is really about Marjan, the heroine who saves Shahrazad from a predictable death by the cruel Sultan.

Being a storyteller of old tales, according to author Susan Fletcher, is the same as being “a keeper of ancient lore,” a collector of “the wisdom of the world.” The old tales endure a long, long time, especially if the storyteller somehow puts a personal truth into the fabric of the story line. Even the personal truth of the desire to see women treated equally, can take on a life of its own. Love, friendship, forgiveness – all those elusive truths become very important as the story unfolds, and both Marjan and Shahrazad fight the battle to save the women of the Sultan’s realm from his personal vengeance. The truth that “Love conquers All” is the eternal truth which serves as an example for generations of readers of this magical story.

What would a story about the ancient Arabian Nights be without a magician? Unexciting! So the author does not disappoint the reader and provides a magician who weaves a different kind of magic. It’s not the magic of a genii or a magical lamp, like in the familiar Aladdin story. It’s more in the realm of magic words, like in Ali Baba’s “Open Sesame.” The magician we learn about little by little is a good Samaritan who rescues young girls from become brides of the murderous Sultan. He is a friend to Marjan and teaches her lessons about life and storytelling in a manner similar to the way the author gently and affectionately does the same to young readers. The mysterious magician is the surprise that the author saves for the final trick in good storytelling.