The Orphan's Wish

The Orphan's Wish

by Melanie Dickerson

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Overview

A reimagining of the beloved folktale, Aladdin, set in medieval Germany.

Orphaned and alone, Aladdin travels from the streets of his Arab homeland to a strange, faraway place. Growing up in an orphanage, he meets young Lady Kirstyn, whose father is the powerful Duke of Hagenheim. Despite the difference in their stations, Aladdin quickly becomes Kirstyn’s favorite companion, and their childhood friendship grows into a bond that time and opposition cannot break.

Even as a child, Aladdin works hard, learning all he can from his teachers. Through his integrity, intelligence, and sheer tenacity, he earns a position serving as the duke’s steward. But that isn’t enough to erase the shame of being forced to steal as a small child—or the fact that he’s an orphan with no status. If he ever wants to feel equal to his beautiful and generous friend Kirstyn, he must leave Hagenheim and seek his fortune.

Yet once Aladdin departs, Lady Kirstyn becomes a pawn in a terrible plot. Now, Aladdin and Kirstyn must rely on their bond to save her from unexpected danger. But will saving Kirstyn cost Aladdin his newfound status and everything he’s worked so hard to obtain?

An enchanting new version of the well-known tale, The Orphan’s Wish tells a story of courage and loyalty, friendship and love, and reminds us what “family” really means.

  • Full length clean fairy tale reimagining
  • Includes discussion questions for book clubs

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780718074838
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 06/26/2018
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 248,608
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Melanie Dickerson is a New York Times bestselling author and a Christy Award winner. Her first book, The Healer’s Apprentice, won the National Readers’ Choice Award for Best First Book in 2010, and The Merchant’s Daughter won the 2012 Carol Award. Melanie spends her time daydreaming, researching the most fascinating historical time periods, and writing stories at her home near Huntsville, Alabama, where she gathers dandelion greens for her two adorable guinea pigs between writing and editing her happily ever afters. Visit her online at MelanieDickerson.com; Facebook: MelanieDickersonBooks; Twitter: @MelanieAuthor.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Summer 1401 The Holy Land

Ala ad'din's mother's eyes were closed as she lay on her funeral bier.

People whispered and stared, but no one spoke to him. Just a few days ago his mother sat cross-legged on the floor while she sewed. Sometimes she would lay aside her work and call to him. He would crawl into her lap and gaze up at her as she sang to him.

There was no one to sing to him now.

Then someone walked up behind him.

"She won't wake up."

A man with wispy black hairs growing above his top lip and on his chin stared down at him. His face was bland as he squatted in front of Ala ad'din. "She won't wake up. Not ever. She's dead. Do you know what dead means?"

Ala ad'din nodded.

"Don't you have a father? A grandmother? Any family?"

Ala ad'din shook his head. His chest ached as tears stung his eyes.

"How old are you?"

"Five years."

Some men came and picked up the funeral bier and started carrying his mother's body away without even a glance at him.

The man put his hand on Ala ad'din's shoulder. "You should come home with me, yes? I have a bed for you. Many other children are there, children for you to play with. Come."

Ala ad'din went with him. But when they reached their destination, the bed he'd mentioned was a thin pallet on a dirt floor. He sat on it with several other children, all of them dirty, some of them smelling of urine, while several men passed out food to them. They ate fried bread and shriveled dates and then slept like puppies piled haphazardly against each other.

The next day, when the sun was high, the man with the wispy whiskers — Mustapha — took Ala ad'din and another boy, Zuhayr, out to the bazaar.

The sun was hot and bright, and the pungent smells of turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, and cloves tickled Ala ad'din's nose when he passed the spice merchant's stall. Other smells — camel dung chief among them — wafted in and surrounded the dusty, heated marketplace.

Zuhayr was a few years older than Ala ad'din. Mustapha stopped them both, holding on to Ala ad'din's arm, his fingers gripping too tightly.

"Watch," Mustapha said in a raspy voice. "Zuhayr will go and take the fat purse hanging from that merchant's belt. Do you see it?"

Ala ad'din tried to follow Mustapha's line of vision.

Zuhayr nodded and took off, running as though he would pass by the merchant's stall with a few feet to spare. But at the last moment, he darted toward the merchant and snatched the purse, breaking it off of the leather belt it was tied to.

Zuhayr did not even slow down as the merchant yelled and gave chase. But he was much too old and heavy to catch Zuhayr, who ran like a flash of lightning.

"Stop him! Thief! Stop him!" The merchant's face seemed to swell with rage as he pointed after Zuhayr's thin figure.

Mustapha pulled Ala ad'din by his arm away from the scene, threading around shoppers and finally stopping in a narrow alley between sandstone buildings.

"Where is Zuhayr?" Ala ad'din's heart trembled at what would happen to his new friend.

Mustapha grinned. "Look! There he is."

Zuhayr hurried toward them, panting. He handed the purse to his master.

"And that is how it is done." Mustapha's thin lips twisted as he grinned down at Ala ad'din. Then his grin disappeared and he gripped Ala ad'din's arm even tighter, giving it a shake. He showed his bright-white teeth as he said in a harsh tone, "And you must do the same."

"But that is stealing. My mother told me stealing is bad."

Mustapha leaned down until his nose was almost touching Ala ad'din's. "You will do whatever I tell you or I shall turn you over to the Sultan's guards, tell them you stole this purse, and then they will cut off your head."

"My head?"

"Yes, your head. They will slice through your neck with their long, sharp scimitars." He drew his finger across his throat from one side to the other. "Do you want to lose your head?" He grinned, and it was even more frightening than his scowl.

Later that day, when Mustapha was occupied with talking with a man in the bazaar, Ala ad'din asked Zuhayr, "Will they really cut off my head for stealing?"

Zuhayr patted him on the shoulder. "They won't cut off your head, but they will cut off your hand."

Ala ad'din gasped.

"But that's only if they catch you. You have to run fast, understand?" He stared into Ala ad'din's eyes.

"But I don't want to steal."

"You must." Zuhayr's dark eyes were solemn. "If Mustapha gets angry, he'll beat you. Just do what he says and he will feed you and not hurt you."

The next day Mustapha took Zuhayr and Ala ad'din out to the marketplace again. They passed a stall of plump fruits, including bunches of purple grapes. He could almost taste their sweet, juicy insides bursting on his tongue.

Mustapha's eyes narrowed at him. "You want those grapes, don't you?"

"No."

"Liar. Steal a big bunch of them."

Ala ad'din shook his head.

He squeezed Ala ad'din's arm so hard he yelped.

"Zuhayr, you distract the vendor while Ala ad'din steals a bunch. After you take it, Ala ad'din, put it under your shirt and walk beside me."

Ala ad'din looked at Zuhayr and nodded.

Zuhayr walked over to the vendor and started asking him a question, pointing behind him at another fruit seller.

Meanwhile, Mustapha walked Ala ad'din toward the stand. As they passed the grapes, Ala ad'din reached out and grabbed a large bunch and shoved it under his shirt, while Mustapha kept up his steady pace.

They walked around the corner into a small side street, and soon Zuhayr joined them.

"The little rat is good at our game." Mustapha laughed, throwing back his head. He reached under Ala ad'din's shirt and pulled out the grapes. "Eat some." He shoved them into Ala ad'din's face.

The boy picked a grape from the bunch and put it into his mouth. Tears flooded his eyes. Could his mother see him? Was she sad that he was stealing grapes? The grape seemed to turn bitter in his mouth as he crunched into a seed.

Mustapha laughed again, then held up the bunch of grapes and ate one right off the vine.

They ate all the grapes and left the stems on the ground. As they walked back out into the bazaar, Mustapha stopped them and pointed at a boy who was perhaps nine or ten years old. He walked with a merchant who wore a snowy-white turban studded with jewels and bright-red silk shoes that curled over the toes like the liripipe from a foreign pilgrim's hood, the ones the Christians wore on their way to Jerusalem.

The man rested his hand lovingly on the boy's shoulder. He wore the same style of clothing as his father, a miniature man dressed in fine fabrics.

"You see that boy? His father is rich. He will never have to steal. But you —" Mustapha pointed at Ala ad'din and then at Zuhayr. "You will never be like him. You have no father, and you will steal and run all your lives, wallowing in dirt and filth like rats until the Sultan's guards catch you and throw you in a hole to die. Unless you do as I say." He grabbed the front of Ala ad'din's shirt. "You're a thief, and you'll never be anything but a thief. And unless you want your hands chopped off, you cannot ever get caught. You understand?"

He let go of Ala ad'din's shirt, grabbed his arm again, and pulled him around the outskirts of the market, keeping out of sight. Day after day Ala ad'din and Zuhayr stole for Mustapha.

Other men and children resided in the large house with the dirt floor, but Ala ad'din and Zuhayr belonged to Mustapha. He took them out every day in the hot bazaar, and then one day, while they sat in a shady spot eating fried bread drizzled with honey, Mustapha suddenly slapped Zuhayr's side.

"What are you hiding there?" Mustapha roughly drew up Zuhayr's shirt. A pouch dangled on a string from the boy's shoulder. Mustapha struck Zuhayr's cheek with his open hand.

"You little rat! You were keeping back part of what you stole!

How dare you?" He slapped him again.

Zuhayr raised his arms over his face, and Mustapha took the pouch and turned away from him. Zuhayr was breathing hard, the red mark of Mustapha's hand and fingers showing on his cheek.

That night, as they lay on their thin pallets, when most of the other children were asleep, Zuhayr whispered to Ala ad'din, "When you see your chance to get away from Mustapha, run.

Find some kind people who will not beat you and stay with them."

"Have you found some people like that, Zuhayr?"

"No, but I am older. I can take care of myself. Before long I will go to another town, away from Mustapha, and live by my wits."

"Can I go with you?"

"No. You still have your baby fat. Someone will take you in, but no one wants me. Go to sleep now, before Mustapha hears us talking."

Ala ad'din was too tired to ponder long what Zuhayr had said. But then he awoke the next morning to Mustapha shouting and searching through the house.

"Where is he? Where is Zuhayr?"

The other men laughed. "Your street rat has run away from you!"

Mustapha's gaze fell on Ala ad'din. "Where is he?" "I don't know." Ala ad'din started to shake.

"You will tell me, you little rat!" Mustapha grabbed Ala ad'din's shoulder with one hand and slapped him across the face with his other.

"I don't know." A tear slid from Ala ad'din's eye.

Mustapha let go of him, drew his hands into fists, and roared with rage.

Ala ad'din knelt on the floor and covered his head with his arms.

It took Mustapha a while to stop yelling. But when he finally did, he took Ala ad'din out to the bazaar, proclaiming, "Now you'll have to steal twice as much, my little beggar." He jerked Ala ad'din's arm as they skulked around the edges of the stalls.

"There." Mustapha pointed at a Christian knight's horse and saddle. The knight's back was turned while he argued with a vendor over a price.

"Slide your hand inside that leather saddlebag." Mustapha squatted beside Ala ad'din. "I saw him drop his purse in there.

Get it. Hurry." He pushed Ala ad'din forward.

Ala ad'din approached the Christian knight's horse and saddle. He jumped up on a large bag of something hard and lumpy and stood on his tiptoes to reach into the saddlebag. He drew out a small purse, heavy with coins.

"Halt!"

Ala ad'din jumped down and ran — right into a large belly.

Hands clamped around his arms. Ala ad'din struggled, kicking and lunging, but his skinny little body couldn't pull free.

The knight who had yelled at him to halt strode toward them, a dark scowl on his bearded face. He snatched the purse out of Ala ad'din's hand.

Ala ad'din screamed, fearing they would cut off his hand.

He knew that even if he got away, Mustapha would beat him.

The knight, who had hair the color of sand, said something, then shook his fist at Ala ad'din.

The large man holding him laughed. The rope encircling his round belly shook, but Ala ad'din concentrated on waiting for the man's grip on his arms to loosen.

When he stopped laughing, the man, who was dressed in the robes of a Christian priest, said something to the knight.

The priest bent until his face was level with Ala ad'din's. Then he spoke in a strange language Ala ad'din did not understand.

The priest seemed to be waiting for an answer, but Ala ad'din didn't give him one. Then the priest said in Arabic, "Where is your mother?"

Ala ad'din shook his head.

"You have no mother? Father?"

He shook his head again.

The knight said something in his harsh voice, his lips twisting.

"Do you have a master?" the priest asked.

Ala ad'din's gaze darted to the right, where Mustapha stood watching.

The priest and knight both followed the direction of his gaze. Mustapha turned and disappeared behind a big display of barrels full of spices and bread flour.

"Where did you get those fingerprints on your cheek?" The priest's face had sobered. "Did your master strike you?" He nodded.

The priest looked up at the knight. "We shall take him with us."

"What do you mean? He is a child, not a stray animal.

Besides, his master would slit our throats if we took his little thief."

The priest raised one eyebrow. "Are you not capable of saving us from the boy's master?"

The knight scowled, then spat on the ground.

The priest turned to Ala ad'din. "Boy, what is your name?" "Ala ad'din."

The priest tried to repeat the name, but it came out sounding like "Aladdin."

"That isn't right, but no matter. Your name shall be Aladdin, if you like it. Do you like Aladdin, boy?"

He nodded, no longer concentrating on how to get away, remembering Zuhayr's words from the night before.

"And do you wish to come with us — with Sir Meynard and me — to a place called Hagenheim, far to the north?" Aladdin gazed into the priest's kind eyes and nodded.

The priest laughed and pulled out a small loaf of bread and handed it to him, finally releasing the boy's arm from his grip.

Aladdin bit into the bread. The priest held out his hand and Aladdin took it, and they walked away from the bazaar and away from his Arab homeland.

CHAPTER 2

Summer 1403 Hagenheim, Lower Saxony, Holy Roman Empire

The first time Aladdin saw Lady Kirstyn, her pale-blonde hair shone in the summer sun like the gold and yellow stained glass of Hagenheim Cathedral, reminding him of one particularly bright angel. Was this girl an angel like the one in the window?

He was still learning the language of the Christians, so when he pulled on the sleeve of the priest's long, flowing robe, he said, "Who?" and pointed at the small girl who was laughing in the sun.

The priest stared down at him with that amused look he wore nearly all the time and shook his head. Then he bent down and said softly, "She is pretty, is she not? Only about two years younger than you, I would guess. But that is the duke's daughter, Lady Kirstyn."

Many days and weeks after that, when the priest was satisfied that Aladdin had learned enough German to understand others and make himself understood, he took him back to the place where Aladdin had seen the girl angel. They stood in the grassy yard behind a large brick building where a large group of children were playing.

Priest leaned down to talk to Aladdin, and he gestured at a well-dressed woman. "That great lady there is Lady Kirstyn's mother, Lady Rose. She has invited you to come and play with the orphans every day when you finish your studies. Would you like to play with the other children?"

"Yes."

The next afternoon he joined the children as they played a game of blindman's bluff in the yard at the end of the street that led to Hagenheim Castle. He kept looking for the angel girl, but she was not there. In fact, several days went by before he saw her again.

That day Lady Rose was standing nearby, speaking with the woman in charge of the orphanage. Aladdin kept his eye on Lady Kirstyn as the children played. She was laughing as the other children ran forward and touched the blindfolded child on the arm or shoulder or back, then stepped back or ran away.

Finally Lady Kirstyn stepped forward, rather timidly compared to the others, and touched the blindfolded boy on the arm.

The boy, who was a head taller than her, reached out and grabbed her by the wrist.

Lady Kirstyn screamed.

Aladdin leapt toward the boy and reached him just as he was taking off his blindfold.

Aladdin grabbed the boy by the arm that held Kirstyn. "Let her go!"

The boy let her go and grabbed Aladdin by the throat, glaring down. "What do you think you're doing?" He drew back his fist.

Aladdin cringed, closing his eyes as he waited for the blow.

"Stop that!" A woman stood beside them, the white wimple that covered her steel-gray hair trembling. "Hanns, do not strike him. He doesn't know the game." She glowered at the boy, and he let go of Aladdin.

Lady Rose stood beside Aladdin and bent toward him. "All is well. It's only a game. I'm sorry no one explained it to you."

Lady Kirstyn stood beside her mother, staring at him with big blue eyes. "Are you the boy who came from the Holy Land with Priest and his knight protector?"

Aladdin stared back at her.

"What is your name?" the little girl asked. "How old are you?" "My name is Aladdin. And I don't know how old I am."

She gave him a puzzled look.

The woman in charge of the children was still speaking with Hanns. Lady Rose smiled down at Aladdin and bent toward him. "Hanns was not hurting Lady Kirstyn, but thank you for coming to her aid."

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "The Orphan's Wish"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Melanie Dickerson.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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