First-time novelist Gardner reinvents the Pied Piper story, imbuing it with plenty of charm. Storm lives with her parents, absent-minded dreamers who "had simply used up all their love on each other and had none left to spare for her." Older sister Aurora is the de facto head of the house and they are soon joined by baby sister Any (short for Anything). On her deathbed, Storm's mother gives her a tin pipe, with an admonition to "use it wisely and only if you have desperate need." Meanwhile, the villagers are fed up with a profusion of rats, and a sinister man named Dr. DeWilde is called in to solve the problem. Before long, Dr. DeWilde shows up at the girls' house-where they now live alone, their father having fled the scene-demanding the pipe, which Storm refuses to relinquish. The girls escape into the woods where a series of misadventures separates them from Any; they learn that their sister is being taken to Piper's Peak, where children "become slaves in the Piper's kingdom." As the girls attempt to rescue Any, Storm learns the pipe's real value, and the doom it would spell should it fall into the evil doctor's hands. Gardner has crafted a fast-paced and entertaining adventure filled with cheeky humor and wordplay; even if the book's playful tone precludes the possibility of a dread ending, it's a blast of a journey. Ages 8-12. (June) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
School Library Journal
This gothic, wildly adventurous romp through the dream country of fairy tales celebrates the power of sisterhood. The Eden girls-beautiful, domestic Aurora; bold, reckless Storm; and baby Any-live at Eden End, a dilapidated estate near a rat-infested village in a setting that vaguely resembles rural Victorian England. On her deathbed, their mother bequeaths Storm a pipe, whispering "Beware of its terrible power." A year later, their grief-stricken father departs on a mysterious expedition, leaving a note that warns Aurora to be careful on her 16th birthday. Enter the mysterious, evil Dr. DeWilde. He wants the pipe. He and his ravenous wolves chase the sisters from their home and pursue them across a landscape familiar to readers of European myths, fairy tales, and fantasy. Elements of "The Pied Piper of Hamlin," "Rapunzel," "Hansel and Gretel," "The Snow Queen," and many other tales figure in the story. The breathless plot, which pulls readers into an escalating series of dangerous situations, hairbreadth escapes, bitter defeats, and surprising triumphs, is grounded in the realistic personalities of the sisters. As their relationship develops, they appeal to readers as much for their flaws as their strengths. Grey's black-and-white illustrations, interspersed with the text, advance the action. A descendant of Joan Aiken's The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (Doubleday, 1963) and its sequels, this book is distinguished by a strong, descriptive style. It should have wide appeal as a family read-aloud or absorbing read-alone.
Margaret A. ChangCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Bursting with flavor and good humor, this single long, lovely fairy tale bows to an abundance of classic tales while keeping everything fresh. Storm, champion maker of fireworks, and older sister Aurora, housekeeper extraordinaire and baker of madeleines, watch their useless parents disappear quickly (natch). Mother dies giving birth to verbally precocious baby Anything, and father wanders away in grief. The three sisters are a sweet household until lupine Dr. DeWilde comes seeking the small magical pipe that mother bequeathed to Storm. Frantically escaping, the sisters scramble through woods, enchanted towns, a candy-house orphanage, cottages, castles, ice fields and a mountain of slavery. Grey's black-and-white drawings perfectly complement Gardner's playful textual winks-both honor a cornucopia of archetypal tales, blatantly and subtly. The sisters' story is a fairy tale itself, yet Rapunzel, Hansel & Gretel and The Pied Piper are also old books that characters read. It works because Gardner anchors everything warmly in Storm, who's wonderfully genuine and full of resourcefulness. Delightful. (Fantasy. 8-11)