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Breath (Golden Kite Honors) Hardcover – November 1, 2003


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 620L (What's this?)
  • Series: Golden Kite Honors
  • Hardcover: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum; 1 edition (November 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689861745
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689861741
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,821,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 8 Up-Legend has it that in 1284 the city of Hameln (or Hamelin) suffered a plague of rats of which they tried to rid themselves by hiring a piper to lead the vermin away. When the residents reneged on their payment to him, he led their children away, as well. This tale has proved fertile ground for a lot of literature, from the 19th-century poem by Robert Browning to a 20th-century novel by Gloria Skurzynski. Now Napoli adds Breath-and breadth-to the canon. She includes the potent elements of ergot poisoning and suspected witchcraft in her plot, which is narrated by 12-year-old Salz-a boy whose frequent, serious illnesses render him almost useless on his family's farm. (An afterword explains that he has cystic fibrosis.) The author vividly describes the frightening conditions facing the townspeople and their increasingly desperate attempts to understand and overcome the torrential rains; the rat infestation; the diseases afflicting their livestock; and the physical, mental, and sexual maladies that beset them. Salz is an intelligent observer who is tried for witchcraft when he doesn't succumb to the same illnesses as the rest of the population. (He doesn't drink the beer made from the infected grain.) Readers unfamiliar with the psychotropic effects of ergot poisoning may be as mystified as these medieval citizens by the events presented here. Salz's illness is likely to be equally puzzling until it is explained in the postscript. The confusion and speculation this ignorance might produce are realistically portrayed, but it's possible that foreknowledge would provide a richer reading experience for teens.
Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Gr. 8-12. It is the late thirteenth century, and Hameln town and its surroundings are overwhelmed by a terrible, incurable illness. Everywhere animals are sick and dying; humans may be next. What can be causing the scourge? Perhaps it's the result of the recent infestation of rats. No one knows for sure, but Salz hopes the piper he meets has the answers. Napoli has written a grotesquely powerful reimagining of the familiar German legend (and Robert Browning poem) about the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Seen through the eyes of a boy who himself suffers a mysterious illness, the medieval setting is a world of ignorance, superstition, and cruelty, which owes more to Pieter Bruegel the Elder (one of his paintings is used on the jacket) than to Browning. Relentlessly downbeat and dense with ghastly details and vivid depictions of the fear and despair visited on the illness' victims, this is definitely not for the faint of heart. History buffs, however, and Napoli fans will find it inarguably artful in its unsparing vision of a pre-Enlightenment Europe. Michael Cart
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

For all information about Donna Jo Napoli (books, events, biography, awards, contact information), please go to http://www.donnajonapoli.com

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Frances D. Granatino on November 12, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Donna Jo Napoli is known for standing fairy tales, myths and legends on their heads. She's taken on Rapunzel, the Sirens, Jack and his beanstalk, Pan, Beauty and Beast - always from a fresh perspective and with characters that jump off the page. Her work has a sensuality and passion that are overwhelming and at times frightening, and she takes no prisoners - always calling events and people as she sees them.
In Breath, she starts with the legend of the lame boy who is left behind when the Pied Piper attracts all the children of Hameln Town, and makes that almost an afterthought. Much of the book is devoted to the culture and mores of the time - the Church, the farmers, the townspeople, the way of life - so the book will serve as a great history lesson for those interested in medieval times.
The protagonist, who has cystic fibrosis (leave it to DJ to come up with this) is an immensely appealing and sensitive character who tells the tale through the eyes of a sickly young man whose spirit ultimately prevails.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on April 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Book Review of Breath By: Donna Jo Napoli

Set in medieval times, in the town of Hameln, Breath is a fantasy of madness and mystery. The main character, a young boy named Salz, has a disease that causes him to uncontrollably cough, stopping him from breathing. In order to stay alive, Salz has to join a coven, steer clear of beer, and stand on his hands to resume breathing.

One summer, the entire town gets trapped under a blanket of chaos that no one understands. On top of that, rats have infested everything, creeping around townsfolk houses and pestering everyone, except Salz. What's happening in the town of Hameln? How did it get this way... or who brought it here?

I want to congratulate Napoli for writing a magnificent book. It always kept me guessing; I never knew what was about to happen. The descriptions of the town and the lifestyles are so detailed, you feel as if you're living in Hameln.

Compared to other books in the fantasy genre, I thought Breath to be fresh and original. It's not the typical wizards, dwarfs, or heroic prince stories, and because of that, I greatly enjoyed reading this book. Anyone interested in the medieval times or fantasy, will fall in love with this frenzied, unsuspecting story.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Berry Clementine on November 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
As usual, Donna Jo Napoli lures you into the world within her pages in the most unassuming way. She paints grim scenes of the Medieval Days, and gives you a history lesson as well! You learn how people dressed and ate and worked: what kind of buildings they lived in and how they typically dealt with problems.

The main character in Breath is called Salz: S for the salvation of his soul, A for ability and action, L for loyalty, and Z for zeal (salz also means "salt" in Latin- or some such language). He's sweet and willful, tenacious, clever, brave... but Salz's one great weakness prevails over all of his more useful characteristics. Salz is sick quite often. He has a peculiar disease which makes him "salty" and which the townsfolk and farmers of Hameln regard as symbolic that he's from the devil. Besides that, there is an enemy inside him: the mucus that fills his lungs and stops the air he needs to breathe. Nevertheless, Salz is strong in the face of any opposition. He is zealous in his coven practices (yes- witches!)and faithful to Catholicism. When things start to go awry in Hameln town, Salz will need every ounce of his tenacity just to stay alive.

Breath is a pretty offbeat re-telling of the legendary Pied Piper of Hameln town. Throughout the book, rats infest houses and churches and barns: anywhere where they can sneak to get away from the incessant rain (there's something funny about that rain, TOO MUCH rain... that can't be good). When the whole town starts getting sick, starting with the cattle and the pigs, the people first turn blame upon the rats, those filthy animals known for spreading sicknesses that come from thickly populated Asia. Near the end of the tale, Salz remembers a piper whom he met (in the very first chapter) who could charm animals and who could possibly drive the rats away from Hameln. But are the rats REALLY the problem...

Read Breath to find out!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By L. Schloegel on July 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Napoli has done an excellent job portraying a medieval town. The details of daily life in Hameln during the 13th century are fascinating, if grim. The story is narrated by a boy named Salz, who lives with his older brothers, father, and grandmother on a farm outside town. Grandmother taught him to stand on his hands to help him clear the congestion from his lungs when his frequent bouts of coughing overtake him. This year has the rainiest growing season in memory, and the most rats. First the grazing animals sicken, then the townspeople. As the frightened people try everything to rid themselves of this pestilence, Salz finds himself in danger - why hasn't he shown any of the symptoms? This book was interesting enough to finish, but not a page-turner. Recommended for history buffs and fans of the middle ages.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on January 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Breath

Donna Jo Napoli

The main character of the book's name is Salz. He lives in a town called Hameln. This story is set in medieval times and suspicious times. The townsfolk are terrified of a severe rat problem. People are going crazy, coughing, and dying. Salz has breathing problems and to avoid choking, he throws himself into a hand stand. His father and his brothers all ignore him and abuse him. Though they realize that he is unaffected by the plague of the rats, and say he is evil, and infected by the rats disease because he coughs all the time. The author has done a good job on this book and put quite a bit of work on the story board, and the attention to detail is obvious. The story is very realistic and precise with most of the stuff related to the suspicion, wrongful prosecution, and rumors that happened a long time ago, and then added the story of the piper and added a twist. I didn't like this book. I thought it was mostly a prequel of the folk tale of the piper. And I was kind of awed and sickened by the thought of some of the things described. I didn't enjoy the subject of the book, but I think the author did a good job.
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