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Reviewed by:
  • The Pied Piper of Hamelin
  • Elizabeth Bush
Morpurgo, Michael , ad. The Pied Piper of Hamelin; illus. by Emma Chichester Clark. Candlewick, 2011. 64p. ISBN 978-0-7636-4824-4 $16.99 Reviewed from galleys Ad Gr. 3-5.

The essential outline of the German legend is well known: town councilors are desperate to rid their city of an infestation of rats; a mysterious piper offers to do the job for a modest price; the piper leads the rats to the river, where they drown, but the mayor refuses to pay; in an act of justice or revenge, the piper leads the town's children away. Then, depending on the tale's source and the teller's taste for terror, the children are either gone for good or returned for a new and higher price. Here Morpurgo definitely takes the gentler path, choosing to bring the children back to their chastened parents. But it's a far longer and frequently more tedious path than the tightly focused folktale generally traverses, with a drawn-out narration by the lame lad (who gets a much expanded role herein) and an awkwardly tacked-on ecological message about keeping your town tidy. Clark's watercolors feature a piper who's just shifty-eyed enough to provide a bit of menace and a cast of children clad in modern enough apparel to look anachronistic among their more traditionally folkloric elders. The rats, generally portrayed as a dashing mass of pointy-tailed shapes, steal every scene they're in and ramp up the eeeeuw! factor, though children interested in a truly dark take on the tale will have to look elsewhere. No source notes are included. [End Page 218]