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KLIATTTo quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, November 2003: 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 charming away all the children—all but Salz, who hasn't the breath to follow. It's essential to read Napoli's postscript, which reveals that Salz suffers from cystic fibrosis, and that the rats are not the real culprits in the town's madness. Instead, it's a killer fungus called ergot that affects the flowers of grasses or grains, and therefore the mead made from grains; ergot poisoning can cause hallucinations and fits of insanity, as well as stimulate sexual desire (this sexual licentiousness is touched on in the book). Napoli, the author of Beast and many other novels for young readers, has clearly done her research and she vividly evokes the harsh and superstitious medieval world. This version of the Pied Piper tale is nightmarish but memorable. (An ALA Best Book for YAs.) KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2003, Simon & Schuster, Pulse, 260p., Ages 12 to18.