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Breathby Donna Jo Napoli
Synopses & Reviews
The tale of the Pied Piper seen through the eyes of the one boy who survived Salz is a boy afflicted with cystic fibrosis--although in the Middle Ages in Saxony no one can identify it as such. Instead he is an outcast, living with his unfeeling father and superstitious brothers in a hovel outside Hameln. His grandmother has kept Salz alive by having him avoid the mead and beer that was commonly drunk by all and by teaching him to clear his lungs by standing in a handstand when coughing fits overtake him. Thus when the townsfolk of Hameln are affected by a mold that grows on their hops--poisoning their mead and beer--Salz is one of the few who is unaffected. The mold's effect is hallucinogenic, and soon Hameln is in the grips of a plague of madness, followed by a plague of rats. It is only Salz who can proclaim the truth--although it might cost him his life. Only Donna Jo Napoli can conjure a world like this--so real that readers will fill their lungs with the fetid air of the Middle Ages with every breath they take.
In this re-imagining of the Pied Piper tale, a boy is the sole survivor of an outbreak of madness.
Salz is a boy afflicted with a strange disease — he coughs and coughs and cannot catch his breath. The only way he can stay alive is by doing things that make him an outcast: joining a coven, throwing himself into a handstand when the fits overtake him, avoiding the ale that his brothers and all the townspeople drink.
Salz lives in a time of superstition and fear, in the medieval town of Hameln. This summer his bare-bones existence has been more fearsome than ever. Salz's father and brothers are affected by horrifying fits. The rest of the townspeople are gripped by a plague of madness. And the entire town is visited by a pestilence of rats — rats that crawl in their soup bowls, swarm in their sick beds, jump into their babies' cradles. Only Salz remains unaffected. But is that because he is innocent? Or is he the devil himself?
Only Donna Jo Napoli can conjure a world like this — so real that readers will fill their lungs with the fetid air of Hameln with every breath they take.
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