Salz is a boy afflicted with a strange disease -- he coughs and coughs and cannot catch his breath. The only way he can stay alive is by doing things that make him an outcast: joining a coven, throwing himself into a handstand when the fits overtake him, avoiding the ale that his brothers and all the townspeople drink.Salz lives in a time of superstition and fear, in the medieval town of Hameln. This summer his bare-bones existence has been more fearsome than ever. Salz's father and brothers are affected by horrifying fits. The rest of the townspeople are gripped by a plague of madness. And the entire town is visited by a pestilence of rats -- rats that crawl in their soup bowls, swarm in their sick beds, jump into their babies' cradles. Only Salz remains unaffected. But is that because he is innocent? Or is he the devil himself?Only Donna Jo Napoli can conjure a world like this -- so real that readers will fill their lungs with the fetid air of Hameln with every breath they take.
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.