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3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  747 ratings  ·  98 reviews
Elaborates on the tale of "The Pied Piper," told from the point of view of a boy who is too ill to keep up when a piper spirits away the healthy children of a plague-ridden town after being cheated out of full payment for ridding Hameln of rats.
Hardcover, 260 pages
Published February 1st 2003 by Atheneum Books
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(showing 1-30 of 1,569)
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The story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin does not sound as though it would make a good novel, let alone one so beautiful as this one. But Donna Jo Napoli, with her characteristic attention to historical detail and emotional reality, creates a moving story about a character whom it is easy to care for. Brief and breathtaking.
Feb 10, 2010 Dee rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Historical Fiction
In the year 1284, the German town of Hameln was overcome by a mysterious illness. Legend goes that the town hired a magical piper, who got rid of all the rats. When the piper was refused a fair pay, he led all the young children away with music.

Sounds familiar, right? "Breath" challenges the classic story of the Pied Piper. It is told from the point of view by a boy named Salz, who was the lame boy that couldn't keep up with the Piper's parade.

Salz is very unique in the story. He has cystic fib
Sep 13, 2007 Debbie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fairy tale fans
Shelves: young-adult-lit
What can I say? I simply love this author's fairy tale retellings. I especially enjoy the elements of paganism that permeate the stories. This one, Breath, is based on The Pied Piper of Hamelin. Salz suffers from cystic fibrosis at a time in history when no one survived this disease for long. Thanks to his grandmother's care, Salz is still alive and kicking at the ripe old age of 12. When a mysterious disease sickens the farm animals, and later the people of Hameln, Salz, along with many of the ...more
The book Breath is exciting and unique book. The characters are engaging and interesting. Many of the characters are round and have significant importance in the decisions made by the main character named Salz. Salz is a boy living in Hameln, Germany during the late 1200's. The theme is about doing the right thing and not giving up because it is easier. The theme is developed throughout the story and is revealed more and more during the book. The theme is traditional and familiar. The elements o ...more
Absolutely beautiful! This is honestly one of my favorite retellings of the Pied Piper. I love how it follows the POV of an ill boy named Salz, whose life is... pretty much a nightmare. After reading this, I'm glad I live in a time period where these sicknesses are treatable and preventable. I can't imagine the horror these people must have gone through back in the day when this happened, and this book really shows those horrors well.

All of the characters were really good too! They felt real and
TeenFiction Teton County Library
J Napoli

You may feel more empathy for this book's main character, Salz, as you continue into the relentless plot and writing style and story revelations take your breath away. Salz suffers from cystic fibrosis in a time when there was no such diagnosis, and certainly no hope for treatment. Living simply on a farm with his grandmother, father, and brothers, Salz stumbles upon a piper in the woods one day, drawn to him along with forest creatures, by the music he plays on his pipe. The piper will
Kendra Merritt
Full Review:

A good book makes me feel the whole gamut of emotions: joy, sorrow, anger, frustration, and shock. A great book does all that, but it also keeps me thinking long after I’ve turned the last past. Breath didn’t have the most engaging plotline or amazing characters, but it had some fascinating things to say about health and illness, disability and heroism, faith and hypocrisy.

I know Donna Jo Napoli for her fairytale re-tellings. I really liked Be
Seth McDiarmid
This is your everyday, average fairy tale.

I wanted to read this because I've always been fascinated with the concept of a hero that is physically limited--protagonists in modern stories so often have tragic flaws that are mental or emotional, but rarely does an author explore a physical handicap. Maybe because we're all too uncomfortable with deformity.

I absolutely loved her voice. The first-person present tense is one of my favorite narrative styles, and it really gives the story a here-ness, a
This is a story of the Pied Piper only told from the point of view of the lame boy (Salz) who could not keep up when all the other children were charmed out of town. Most of the story is the build up to the Pied Piper’s visit, and concern Salz’s struggle to stay alive despite his many physical afflictions, and an abusive older brother. While Salz’s life is a struggle he does not wallow in self-pity, instead he struggles to learn all he can about nature, God, and life in general. Then nature seem ...more
Set in late 13th Century, Breath is the story of Salz, a 12-year old boy who has a serious illness that makes it almost impossible to work on his family’s farm. The story unfolds like a mystery – the people and animals in the town of Hamelin are sick and dying; is it the moldy grain brought on from the torrential rains; is it the plague of rats infesting the town; or is it witchcraft? When Salz is the one person not affected by the strange disease, he is accused of witchcraft. To prove his worth ...more
May 23, 2008 Stephanie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: young adults readers of historical fiction
Recommended to Stephanie by: Vickie Tomko
This is the first book I've read by Napoli, but as a history teacher and a fan of historical fiction, I enjoyed this book. Napoli takes an event, in this case the removal of the children of the town of Hamelin by the Pied Piper, and builds a historically and scientifically accurate story around it. The book centers on the child that was left behind, Salz, who has cystic fibrosis and cannot keep up with the other children as they are led away from the city. Napoli goes on to build a story explain ...more
Athena Macmillan
I think if this had been the first book by this author that I had read I would have loved it. but since I have already read two amazing books of hers, this one fell short just a little. Still a wonderful adaptation, this time of the pied piper of Hamlin. A refreshing twist on e childhood tale, with character narratives true to the time and culture they are set in. I did really enjoy it, I just enjoyed the others a little more so have rated accordingly.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
It was interesting to read the book about the cripple's point of view from the Pied Piper fairy tail. I really liked how the book was able to show how Germany made the changes from Paganism to Christianity. In fact the piper part seemed to be just an end for the means to finish the story. I thought it was really creative and a really fun story.

Violence: Yes, there is some fighting, killing, and even an old woman gets her hand cut off with a scythe.
Language: I think that there are a few swear wor
I read this book in 6th grade and still remember how vivid and descriptive it is of the boy's situation as the story starts turning into the tale of the Pied Piper and he is left behind. I loved this story for how it was written and the characters. I will read it again sometimes since it's been years since I last did.
Napoli doesn't pull any punches about the nastier aspects of living in a German state in the middle ages. Life was hard and dirty and superstition and ignorance were rampant.
I had one tiny advantage reading this book that some people might not have. My father worked with small grains and I know what ergot is and what it can do to humans and animals. It made it easier figure out pretty quick what was making everyone so sick.
Like many of Napoli's books there is no classical happily-ever-after endi
Nancy Chaffin
Salz is a young boy who lives with his father, brothers, and grandmother on a farm outside of the medieval town of Hameln. He has cystic fibrosis and suffers from coughing attacks that threaten his life. The plot thickens as the community is threatened with rats and a plague that afflicts the livestock and the people. Salz and his grandmother belong to a coven and they try to stop the plague with a particularly powerful spell which doesn't make any difference.

This is a very powerful story of th
April Helms
Feb 03, 2008 April Helms rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: young adults (11+) and adults
I stumbled across this book trying to find another. The tale takes place in the Middle Ages and centers on Salz, a young boy plagued by horrible coughing spells. The only way he can clear his lungs and breathe is to stand on his head. But Salz also is one of the few to not sucuumb to a mysterious illness that strikes the townspeople and, later, the farmers in and near Hamilyn. What has caused the illness? And can a mysterious and colorful piper whom Salz encounters truly help? A take on the Pied ...more
This was an interesting twist on the Pied Piper of Hamelin. I really loved the historical fiction parts. Napoli really knows her medieval Europe! I liked the main character. There were some gruesome parts. and it took a while to hook me.
The best thing about this book, hands down, is the history and research that went into it. Bringing a fairy tale like the "Pied Piper of Hameln" into the real world was extremely well done. I loved reading about this time of superstition and witchcraft. Although there were times when things got kind of dull in the book, overall I thought it was very well done.

This book is good for anyone who loves different takes on old fairy tales and such. I would say it's good for all teens 14 and up.

The best part of this book, hands down, is the way that it blends fairy tale and history together. It is clear that everything was researched extremely well. This is the tale of the Pied Piper of Hamlin, told in a world filled with superstition and old time witchcraft. While there were times when the book got a little dull and nothing happened, overall I think it was a great story.

This book would be good for teenagers who like a little bit shorter books. Those who like superstition and fairy ta
I tried to guess the whole way through what disease was traveling through town, but (surprisingly) I ended up stumped, much like the main character (thankfully, the epilogue explains it all).
This is a pretty decent retelling of the Pied Piper of Hameln story done in the usual Donna Jo Napoli style. One thing really annoys me about this book though and that is that the back cover blurb gives away what could be an interesting mystery which I'm guessing the author didn't intend to be made clear from the beginning. Not only that, the back of the book gets it wrong which makes the story slightly confusing. Whoever wrote the blurb apparently didn't read the book. The bottom line is that y ...more
Lisa Tooley
An interesting story-a well written twist on a tale. A few sexual references, so I wouldn't feel comfortable having it on my classroom shelf.
I always find Napoli's historical fiction so interesting, and she's also good at interpretive fairy tales. This story is both. A boy in medieval Germany suffers from an unknown lung disease, and his family and town are stricken with a strange illness as well. The people use both witchcraft and church power to try and cure the illness, but they can't find out where the mysterious malady comes from. People in the story are cruel and ignorant, and it was kind of depressing, but I liked reading what ...more
Fairy tale retellings are a big favorite of mine, but this - this was astounding. Donna Jo Napoli has already written a few books that I've really enjoyed, and this one trumps all the others. Salz is an utterly compelling character with a clarity of mind that sets him apart from the people around him. Mein Gott-inducingly written, with plenty of details to create an atmosphere of superstition and mystique, this book's only defect is that the ending is not as sharp as the rest of it. The scientif ...more
Jeni Enjaian
Unlike "Zel," this book was weird from the get go. The only reason I kept reading it was because it was a fairly easy read and I had already invested some time in reading it.
Some spoilers below:

In no particular order, here are the things I found a problem with in the book. I never really identified with any of the characters. Napoli "explained" the psychotropic LSD effects but not really. Instead, the characters affected acted in creepy, disturbing ways that did not really make sense. The grand
Nikki S
I first read this book when I was in the seventh grade. However I had to return it to the person I borrowed it from before I could finish the very end. The worst part was I didn't actually know the title. A few months ago through the magic of goodreads I was able to did this book again and finally finish. I must say that while rereading this book it was as good as I remembered it but the ending was a big disappointment. I wanted to finish this book to get closure on the story but there was none ...more
So everyone in my SFF class who read this before I got to it said something to me about how I would love it because I'm gluten free. And yup! I may not have CF but you could totes use this book for the GF movement.

hahaha but seriously, this is a great way to infuse a fairy tale with new things while still keeping it true to the flavor, time, and setting of the source material (seriously, if I read one more pseudofeminist fairy tale or historical fiction that has completely anachronistic feminism
Interesting so far. Seems to be the story of a 12 yo with CF in late 13th century Germany.

Napoli does a great job of making a fairy tale plausible in scientific and historical terms. I love that she manages to capture a realistic local flavor in Salz's experiences and observations, as well as creating a strong protagonist who's survived many circumstances that would have killed others in his time. I thought she pushed the pagan thing a bit far, but I did like how she dovetailed the old beliefs w
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From her website:

Donna Jo Napoli is both a linguist and a writer of children's and YA fiction.

Donna Jo has five children. She dreams of moving to the woods and becoming a naturalist. She loves to garden and bake bread.

At various times her house and yard have been filled with dogs, cats, birds, and rabbits. For thirteen years she had a cat named Taxi, and liked to go outside and call, "Taxi!" to
More about Donna Jo Napoli...
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