The pied piper of…Harlem!

February 12, 2010 at 11:48 am

The Steel Pan Man of Harlem, written and illustrated by Colin Bootman; published by Carolrhoda Books, Minneapolis; 2009.

The end pages introduce us to the Harlem Renaissance, probably around the end of the era in the early 1930s by the look of the automobiles.  Indeed, as the story opens, we find ourselves in Harlem, a neighborhood overrun by rats.  One night, a mystery man disembarks a train with a steel drum.  His music is hypnotic, for humans and rats alike.  The Steel Pan Man reaches an agreement with the Mayor: He’ll receive $1 million if he can get rid of all the rats.  Sure enough, his sweet music charms the rats out of town, but leaves the biggest rat behind, Mr. Mayor himself.  With the promise broken, the music starts anew, the sweetest music yet, and the Mayor is unable to stop dancing and he fulfills his promise to the Steel Pan Man.  The story ends with both Mayor and mysterious stranger disappearing, never to be heard from again.

Like the end pages, the illustrations help tell the story.  Faces, especially, will help children fill in the blanks.  The little bits of humorous elements on each page will delight everyone who looks at this book.  Bootman’s story is a riff on the Pied Piper of Hamelin story.  He has really done a fine job of updating the story and creating a multi-cultural rendition.

Like I recommended with a variety of Cinderalla stories retold, I would include this in a display or pathfinder about various version of the Pied Piper story, maybe even for St. Patrick’s Day!

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Entry filed under: Folklore or Fairy Tales, Multicultural Picture Book. Tags: , , , , .

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