Napoli, Donna Jo. Breath.

Author:Rohrlick, Paula
Position:Brief Article - Young Adult Review - Book Review
 
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Simon & Schuster, Atheneum. 272p. c2003. 0-689-86174-5. $16.95. JS

The cover of this historical novel gives some important clues to its themes: the nose and mouth of a child are featured over a reproduction of Bruegel's grim painting The Triumph of Death. Young Salz, who suffers from terrible coughs and often cannot catch his breath, lives in the medieval German town of Hameln. The town is going through a bad time: the farm animals have been falling ill, rats are rampant, the plague is starting to sweep through Europe, and the townsfolk have been afflicted with fits of madness. Salz, whose grandmother has always forbidden him to drink mead like everyone else because he is sickly, is unaffected by the madness, and therefore suspect. He is locked up by the townspeople, but saves himself by telling of a piper he encountered in the woods who has the power to charm the rats away. The piper is summoned, but when he is not paid in full, he retaliates by...

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