During the night before she turns eleven, a landmark birthday, Penelope inexplicably loses her hearing. Although a tragedy, this ends up being a blessing when Penelope and the blind Alloway, her harpist maker father's assistant, are the only children in Hamlin not bewitched away by the Pied Piper. It is tradition on their eleventh birthday that Hamelin's children have their fortunes told by the seer Cuthbert, and Penelope learns she is a Deep Dreamer, able to enter a shadowy world alongside our own. Her mission is to rescue her companions in childhood, including beloved older sister Sophy.
The novel is told in flashback format by Penelope at age 101, lamenting her treatment at the hands of the village young, and reflecting on the past. The technique is effective, and the idea interesting, but the final third of the book lagged for me, and the fantasy elements became a little disjointed. I did enjoy the pivotal role of skipping and skipping rhymes, and the useful section on not judging people (in this case dragons) before you've met them. It just didn't hum for me. - Alex