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The Book of Stolen Dreams

About The Book

An exhilarating, wondrous middle grade debut about a brother and sister on a quest to defeat a tyrannical ruler and protect a magical book, perfect for fans of Philip Pullman and Katherine Rundell.

Rachel and Robert live a gray, dreary life under the rule of cruel and calculating Charles Malstain. That is, until one night, when their librarian father enlists their help to steal a forbidden book.

Before their father is captured, Rachel and Robert are given one mission: find the missing final page.

But to uncover the secrets of The Book of Stolen Dreams, the siblings must face darkness and combat many evils to be rewarded with the astonishing, magical truth about the book. Nevertheless, they resolve to do everything in their power to stop it from falling into Charles Malstain’s hands. For if it does, he could rule their world forever.


Chapter 1: On the Lower Deck of the Pegasus

1 On the Lower Deck of the Pegasus
“Excuse me. I couldn’t help noticing you are alone. Please, my dear girl, you have no reason to fear.”

Rachel said nothing. The scruffy man stood in the frozen darkness and smiled. His suit jacket was missing several buttons. His eyes twinkled but were sad at the same time. He looked the way a kind uncle would—if Rachel had a kind uncle. What age was he? Rachel wasn’t sure.

He spoke again, words tumbling from his mouth like laughter.

“You will want to know my name. Quite right! Who am I? Why am I talking to you? Why am I here on this huge airship traveling across the night-sky to Port Clement? How did I get my ticket away from that miserable city of Brava? Why is my ticket for this trip pink and yours blue? Is my mustache real? Why am I wearing a hat in the shape of a penguin?”

He stopped for breath. Rachel stayed silent and looked down at her shoes. They were so obviously too big. Would he notice? Would he see the little bulge in her sock? She must be careful. He might have followed her from Brava. From Meyer’s House of Illustration. These days you could trust no one.

“And you, my dear? How old are you?”

“Twelve.” Rachel could tell him that. That was safe.

“Good Lord! You don’t look a year older than eleven! Your name?”

Rachel Klein thought fast. Remembered her false name.

“Isabella von Gurning.”

“An utterly charming name. Do you live in Brava? Which side of the city are you from?”

Rachel took a deep breath and lied again.

“From the west? A charming area. Full of the best-dressed women.” He studied her. “And yet I sense in you a different spirit.”

Oh no. He had seen through her! How could he tell?

The man scrutinized her carefully. His breath was visible in the dim glow of the deck’s lighting.

“No. I suspect you come from the poorer north of the city, from a family of artists. Your eyes are musical, and your nose gives me the strongest impression that you have a piano in your living room.”

How did he know? How could he possibly know…?

“You do? Ha! I knew it!” He jumped in delight. “Where are your wonderful parents? Are they getting you a hot chocolate from the cafe? I’m afraid to say it isn’t very good.”

Why was she nearly crying? Was it lack of sleep? Was it the mention of the hot chocolate? Memories of muffins in the old family apartment?

“But, my dear—why do you look so sad? Is it the poor quality of the hot chocolate? No, I see now. Your parents aren’t here with you. You are alone. Where are they?”

Rachel looked into his understanding eyes, and told him the truth: “My mother is dead.”

The man’s face fell.

“Oh, my poor girl. How tactless I am. I could beat myself with a stick! I should have thought that there might be a darker reason for you being on this journey. Oh, you’re shaking! Please take my blanket. It smells slightly of salad cream due to an unfortunate accident with a baguette earlier today. You will find out in time why it is flea-bitten and why the design is of watermelons.”

Rachel shivered and took the rather grubby piece of old rug that he had unwrapped from around the violin case.

“And your father? Where is he?”

“He’s in prison. Soldiers took him.”

“Oh, my dear Isabella! But it’s an all-too-common story these days. Did he put up a fight? No? It was probably wise of him. You don’t mess with Charles Malstain’s state police. In the days of the Emperor, if soldiers came to arrest you, they offered a polite smile, a bunch of flowers, or a box of chocolate hearts. But these days the police have neither reason nor manners. And there are no chocolate hearts.”

Rachel looked up at him. His ragged suit. His funny facial hair. He spoke again.

“Why are you going to Port Clement, may I ask?”

“My brother is there. I have to find him.”

“Is he doing well there?”

“I don’t know.”

“You haven’t heard from him? Do you know where he lives? You don’t even have a telephone number? Then how will you find him? Now don’t cry, I was only asking a question. Of course you will find him, even though Port Clement is a city of seventeen million people and he has no idea you’re coming. Why are you crying again? Here I am trying to cheer you up and I only make things worse! My problem, Isabella, is I speak before I think. My mother—a marvelous woman—was very critical of this flaw of mine. Forgive me.”

Rachel wiped her eyes and said she would. She looked out across the darkness. It was endless and unknowable.

As if sensing what she was thinking, the little man stood beside her at the rail and spoke quietly.

“My dear, listen to me very carefully. Your brother will find you—or you will find him. I promise you.”

“How do you know?”

“Because he will hear your heart beating.”

For a moment their eyes met. Rachel felt a little spring of hope deep inside her.

And with that the little man slapped her on the back.

“Now how about a cup of dreadful cocoa?”

About The Author

Photograph by Susannah Baker-Smith

David Farr is a playwright, screenwriter, stage director, and film and TV director whose plays have been performed all over the world. The Book of Stolen Dreams is his first book for children.

Product Details

Raves and Reviews

"With nods to both His Dark Materials and Lemony Snicket, the narrative spins a tale of good and evil, all the while interposing snippets of humor to keep things just a bit sardonic. As the siblings navigate the mystery of the book they have been given and learn its secret, they encounter new worlds and both brave and cowardly people. While an effervescent adventure, the story never loses sight of its timely theme: the essential need for a moral compass...[s]parkling and timely."

– Kirkus Reviews

"Farr’s beautifully crafted, thought-provoking story isn’t an easy-breezy read, but Farr is intimately acquainted with its stakes: The Book of Stolen Dreams was inspired by his own German Jewish family’s escape from Nazi Germany between 1935 and 1938. The novel grapples with tough, weighty questions: Is happiness possible under government oppression? When is a risk worthwhile? What do we owe our fellow citizens?

Farr’s characters experience fear and grief right alongside delight and wonder. As his omniscient narrator observes with the mix of hard-won acceptance, hope and love for humanity that echoes throughout The Book of Stolen Dreams, 'Such is life, my friend. There is no joy without accompanying sorrow. There is no despair so dark that a sliver of light cannot abate it.'"


"Farr’s action-packed adventure will keep you on your toes as readers get both Rachel’s and Robert’s points of view with whimsical narration...a hopeful tale of bravery and resilience."

– Booklist

"Alternating between the siblings’ perspectives, third-person narration breaks the fourth wall, leavening fittingly dark matter with humor and whimsical details that will appeal to readers of Kelly Barnhill and Lemony Snicket."

– Publishers Weekly

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