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“Hamelin didn’t think that my mother—my brother—was worth breath. It is probably how they think of me. But I believe every life is worth breath,” Maggie. –Piper
by Jay Asher & Jessica Freeburg
AR Test, Graphic Novel
Maggie lives in a small village in the middle of a dark forest. Because she is deaf, the people in her small village have shunned her. An elderly woman, Agathe, is the only person who has shown Maggie kindness. In the evening, Maggie uses her imagination to weave stories that Agathe writes down. Despite Agathe’s company, Maggie dreams of finding her fairytale love.
The village is plagued by rats, who are devouring the food and biting the people. A mysterious Piper comes to town, promising to rid the village of rats. Maggie is captivated by the Piper and thinks she has finally met her true love. However, Maggie soon discovers that the Piper has a dark side. The boy of Maggie’s dreams might just turn out to be her worst nightmare…
The graphic novel’s artwork is amazing and beautiful. Jeff Stokely uses a variety of colors that help enhance the scene’s mood. Each illustration highlights the character’s emotions, and the village is painted in vivid detail. Piper’s artwork is by far the best part of the graphic novel; each picture tells so much of the story in detail.
While the artwork is fantastic, both the characters and the plot are underdeveloped. Maggie’s backstory is confusing, and the reason the village shunned her is unclear. Maggie is deaf but has taught herself how to read lips. However, in most of the panels she isn’t looking at the person who is talking, yet can somehow understand their words. Even though the readers should empathize with Maggie, she is so underdeveloped and predictable that her story doesn’t evoke an emotional reaction.
The plot jumps around from Maggie, to the village, and then flashbacks of the past. In addition, Maggie makes up stories about the town folk. The story’s transitions are often awkward and confusing. So little information is given about the Piper that he is difficult to understand. The conclusion is quick and leaves the reader with too many questions.
As a retelling of the Pied Piper, Piper is a dark story that lacks depth. While readers will enjoy the artwork, the actual story and characters are not memorable. However, the story does touch on the theme of greed. When the villagers refuse to pay the Piper for his services, one person says, “So much evil is traced back to greed. And greed makes us choose what we believe.”
Readers who want to add a little fright to their life may want to leave Piper on the shelf. If you’re looking for a spectacularly spooky story, Nightbooks by J.A. White and City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwa would make an excellent addition to your reading list.
- Someone asks the rat catcher, “Do you think the rats stop fornicating when you get distracted?”
- Maggie kisses the Piper.
- Rats infest a village. They destroy food and crops. They also bite a baby; the illustration shows the crying child with a bloody bite on the arm.
- Maggie tells a story about boys that lost a coin. They couldn’t find the coin “so they put their heads in the holes! Their heads become stuck in the holes. The rabbit mistook their ugly faces for cabbage. And it was very hungry.” The last illustration shows the rabbit’s huge teeth.
- Any angry woman flicks a seed and hits Maggie in the head. Maggie runs away crying.
- When Maggie and her brother were children, a group of boys shoved them into a barrel, shut the lid, and threw it into a river. A man jumped in to save the children, but Maggie’s brother died.
- A drunk man yells at Maggie. The man grabs her, pinches her face, and puts his finger in her ear. Maggie falls to the ground and begins crying.
- After the man yells at Maggie, the Piper uses a dart to put the drunk man to sleep. The Piper throws the man into the river by the water wheel. The next day, someone says, “I warned him, if he was going to stumble about drunk at night, stay away from the river. I was not even thinking of the water wheel.” Another man says, “I never imagined it could take a man’s head off his shoulders.” The illustration shows the man being thrown into the water.
- A boy gets his shirt caught in a grinding stone. The Piper hears the boy’s yells. The Piper holds a knife against the boy’s throat and says, “It’s not what you did to me that makes me want to kill you.” Even though the Piper is upset that the boy was mean to Maggie, he cuts the boy free.
- Angry that the village leaders refuse to pay him, the Piper uses his flute to lead the children out of the village. Maggie finds the children and takes them home.
- The villagers burn the church with the Piper and “many many others” inside of it.
Drugs and Alcohol
- A man tries to poison the rats, but “it killed all the cats!”
- When a strange man comes into the village, he says he can get rid of the rats for a price. When he tells his price, a man says, “You must have chugged your drink too quickly.”
- Maggie tells a story about a blacksmith. His wife “shut him out of their home one winter evening after he’d been out drinking too many nights. In the morning she found him passed out on a stump.” The blacksmith was frozen.
- Maggie tells the story about a blacksmith. “The drunken fool pissed himself frozen to the stump.”
- When the village children disappear, one of the women says, “Oh God!”
- The Piper plays a “cursed flute. Its magic will make anything obey.”
- The Piper plays his flute and leads the village rats into the river where they die. Four panels show the rats’ death.
- After a wedding, the guests dance near the church’s graveyard. The priest says, “I would think those who have passed would be pleased by the joy of the living… The Lord knows they deserve one evening of merriment.”
- Maggie’s caretaker says, “We should pray for the well-being of everyone, but it is great fun to imagine how they may seal their own fate.”
- A man who is cleaning the church window says, “I pray my soul is always like this window, pure and clean.”
- When a man expresses his fear of the Piper, the priest says, “Ephesians calls us to be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might…not our own strength, or that of a magical flute.”
- Maggie tells the Piper, “I will pray that they give you what was promised.”