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by Michael Morpurgo, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark

Age Range: 6 - 9

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7636-4824-4
Publisher: Candlewick

The rich may ignore the poor, but the Piper must be paid.

A tall orphan with a crutch narrates this retelling of the familiar tale. In his village, Hamelin, "the rich and the greedy [live] like kings and queens," while the needy scrounge for food in the rat-ridden streets. The boy and his best friend Emma fight back against the vermin. One day, the mayor sees the duo in action and appoints them his personal "rat boy and rat girl." Unfortunately, they can do little to keep the rats away from wealthy homes. Just when things seem most hopeless, a meeting of the town council is crashed by an arresting figure dressed in an outrageous costume: The Pied Piper. Playing his beautiful silver flute, he leads the rats away, but, when the mayor reneges on his promise to pay, the Piper extracts revenge by luring the children away, too. The slow-moving narrator is left behind, and it falls to him to bring the Piper and the children back. It is a nuanced and substantial retelling of the well-known morality tale; young readers can identify with the resourceful narrator, and adults may find relevance, given current economic woes. Chichester Clark's pencil-and-acrylic illustrations are bright and beautifully composed; the teeming rats radiate menace without being actively scary.

An evocative and effective retelling of an old classic. (Picture book. 6-9)