Penelope learns that she can walk in the world of dreams and uses her new-found abilities to save her village from an evil Piper that has stolen all the children and transformed them into rats. Penelope is a harpist's daughter who loves the process of making harps. She lives in the small village of Hamelin, and for many years, their village suffered from the plague and a rat infestation. When Penelope turned 11, she lost her hearing and her father started succumbing to an arthritic disease that prevents him from playing his harp. People stopped coming to Hamelin to be apprenticed to her father – only the blind young man, Alloway remains an apprentice. Alloway has lived with Penelope's family since he was taken in as an orphan. Over the years, he has fallen in love with Penelope's sister, Sophy because of her sweet singing voice.
One day, the Mayor Hamelin makes an announcement that he has hired a famous piper who will play enthralling music that he will capture all the rats of the village for them. Though she doesn't hear any notes, she observes that when the Piper plays, the rats follow the Piper out of the village. When the mayor refuses to pay for his services, the Piper enchants all the children of the village and takes them away. Even Sophy is taken away. The only children who did not leave are Penelope because of her deafness and Alloway because of his blindness.
Cuthbert tells Penelope that the Piper has the gift of Deep Dreaming. This means that he can fall into a deep sleep and leave his physical body behind so that his dream body can cross the border between waking and sleeping to snare the waking and bring them to his dream country. Cuthbert thinks Penelope might also have this same gift and he tells her she may be able to help rescue the village children.
Cuthbert helps put Penelope into a state of Deep Dreaming. While in her dream world, Penelope is joined by the dream body of Scally, her pet cat. Seeing Scally gives Penelope more courage to embark on her quest. Penelope encounters a bunch of singing creatures that call themselves Trolavians. The Trolavians capture her and Scally and transport them to their city. When Penelope explains her situation to the Trolavian Magistrate, he welcomes them, as he trusts Cuthbert.
The Magistrate tells Penelope that the Pied Piper was a powerful and talented magician that discovered the black magic of the flute's music. Later, Penelope communicates with Cuthbert through a mirror and learns the rest of the story. Cuthbert tells her that the magician's younger brother, afraid that his older brother would use the magic for evil ends, trapped his brother in a dream state by using a magical harp. But over the years, the younger brother aged and his magic waned, allowing the magician to break free from his dream prison to wreak havoc on both the dream and physical world. Cuthbert fears that if the magician finds his physical body, he will become unstoppable. Penelope also learns from the Trolavians that Cuthbert is the younger brother of the story.
One of the Trolavians, named Belle, decides to help Penelope on her quest. As they leave the city, they encounter a young boy dragon who claims to be travelling to the Piper's castle in order to find work. Penelope has a plan that they should all enter the Piper's castle disguised as a group of traveling players. To make sure the Piper does not lock her up with the rest of the children, Penelope disguises herself as a dragon. Penelope also inadvertently summons Alloway into the dream world and she makes him a harp out of driftwood so he can join their troupe.
The Piper's castle is run by rats and, under the Piper's order, the troupe is allowed to perform. The troupe tries to entertain the rats but things soon get rowdy. Suddenly, the Piper appears and he demands that Alloway play alongside with his newest singer – Sophy. Because Alloway plays so well, the Piper transforms him into a rat and takes him away. He locks up the rest of the troupe in the dungeon. In the dungeon, Penelope reunites with Sophy. Her sister tells her that the Piper turned all the children into rats except for her because of her singing voice. Before she can say anymore, Sophy is taken away to sing for the Piper again. Penelope uses the Piper's spell to transform herself into a rat and chase her sister. As she travels in rat-form, it is difficult to remember who she is because the Piper's music is everywhere. She is attacked by a harpy that guards the castle but her friend, Belle, rescues her, dying in the process.
After the horrible ordeal, Penelope receives another message from a weakened Cuthbert, urging her to return to the world of the waking because the Piper has found a way to break the spell that prevents him from returning to his physical body. Penelope and the remaining members of her troupe exit the dream world and find themselves in a forest. They find out that the Piper is using Sophy's voice and Alloway's harp playing talents to weave a musical spell that will allow him to reenter his body. Penelope finds a way into the Piper's house where Cuthbert's magical harp is found. Unfortunately, the Piper discovers her. The music of the harp stops and the Piper returns to his body. He tells Penelope that he plans on marrying Sophy and severing Penelope's ties with her physical body for good.
At the last moment, Cuthbert appears and he frees Alloway and Sophy. He also summons the driftwood harp Sophy's made so that Alloway can play it and use the music to put the Piper back to sleep. Cuthbert helps Penelope enchant the harp so that it keeps playing.
The story ends with all the children returning Hamelin and the Piper fallen asleep and trapped in the dream world.
Best part of story, including ending:
I thought this was a very creative re-telling of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. It was interesting to learn how the Deep Dreaming powers worked and how it was integrated into this familiar fairy tale.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Penelope first enters the dream world and finds out that she can hear and communicate with her cat Scally. I was sad that Penelope lost her hearing when she turned 11 years old but the fact that she was able to hear and talk to the magical creatures of her dream made me feel better.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that Penelope was such an optimistic and brave character. Even when she was faced with such a difficult task in which her own life was at risk, she continued to try her best.