After Hamelin

Bill Richardson, Author
Bill Richardson, Author Annick Press $19.95 (144p) ISBN 978-1-55037-629-6
Prebound-Glued - 227 pages - 978-0-613-46188-7
Paperback - 144 pages - 978-1-55037-628-9
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Featuring a wild and unpredictable dreamscape, this surrealistic tale begins 90 years after the Pied Piper of Hamelin's tale ends. Penelope, at age 101, is the only villager old enough to remember the events, and she records her account of what really happened to her town's children. She begins with her 11th birthday, marked by three significant occurrences. First she is mysteriously struck deaf. Then she watches helplessly as the piper lures her older sister and friends out of the city with an enchanting melody (her deafness spares her from the same fate). Next a mysterious town elder informs Penelope that she alone can rescue the children by journeying to a magic land that can be entered only through dreams. After falling into a deep sleep, Penelope embarks on her dangerous mission and, with the aid of a talking cat, a featherless snowbird and a rope-skipping dragon, she sets out to find the piper and his imprisoned victims. First-time YA novelist Richardson provides an effective framework for his narrative, juxtaposing the poetic musings of 101-year-old Penelope against the childhood adventure she meticulously recalls. Penelope emerges as a far more convincing character than her traveling companions, whose bizarre traits and talents seem too neatly tailored to advance the plot. If the events are somewhat convoluted and unevenly paced, Penelope's wise, sometimes bitter voice remains fresh and provocative. Ages 10-13. (Jan.)
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