An enchanted coin, a plague of rats, an itinerant fiddler and the disappearance of the village children are familiar folklore elements that find their ways into this original adventure.
Although 12-year-old Rudi Bauer thinks he’s found a treasure, no good can come from taking something that belongs to the Brixen Witch. His sleep is plagued by nightmares, but when they stop there's no relief—the village is infested with rats. Setting her third-person narrative in a tiny, Germanic mountain community, DeKeyser makes a traditional fantasy world come to life with homey details and believable dialogue. The witch’s old-fashioned speech reveals her great age. Occasional small silhouettes effectively highlight important symbols in each chapter: grandmother's rocking chair, a mountain flower and then, more ominously, rats and more rats. Around the Pied Piper events, the author weaves a substantial story that includes both good and bad magic and the power and purpose of a medieval witch for a village. “Sounds like you're just a midwife, really. Or a philosopher. Not really a witch,” Rudi blurts out. But the witch really is a witch, even though much of her power has been stolen by her greedy servant; she’s necessary to her mountain and her village. As his Oma points out, young Rudi, the one child left behind after the children disappear and the one who precipitated the crisis, is the one to make things right.
Fresh and satisfying for middle-grade readers. (Fantasy. 9-12)