cover image Into the Woods

Into the Woods

Lyn Gardner, , illus. by Mini Grey. . Random/Fickling, $16.99 (427pp) ISBN 978-0-385-75115-5

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)