Pay the Piper: A Rock 'n' Roll Fairy Tale


A rock 'n' roll band to die for? Callie is about to find out.... Not much happens in fourteen-year-old Callie McCallan's sleepy Massachusetts town. So when the famous rock 'n' roll band, Brass Rat, schedules a concert in the Valley, it's big news. As a reporter for her school paper, Callie scores the scoop of a lifetime--a backstage pass to interview the lead singer of Brass Rat! Her friends are so jealous. But Callie isn't sure what the fuss is all about...until she meets the band. Lead singer Peter Gringras and...
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A rock 'n' roll band to die for? Callie is about to find out.... Not much happens in fourteen-year-old Callie McCallan's sleepy Massachusetts town. So when the famous rock 'n' roll band, Brass Rat, schedules a concert in the Valley, it's big news. As a reporter for her school paper, Callie scores the scoop of a lifetime--a backstage pass to interview the lead singer of Brass Rat! Her friends are so jealous. But Callie isn't sure what the fuss is all about...until she meets the band. Lead singer Peter Gringras and his band mates are so cool. Especially Peter. When he plays his flute, it's as if he has some kind of hypnotic power. But there is something strange about the band, something Callie can't quite put her finger on. Maybe she's just being weird, but it's as if they're from here--but not from here--at the same time.

It's when, on Halloween night, Callie's little brother Nicky disappears--along with all the other children of Northampton--that she begins to wonder if her suspicions are so weird after all. It's crazy, but Callie thinks she knows why the children have disappeared--and who took them. To prove it--and to rescue Nicky and the other children--Callie will be forced down a road that will lead to her to a mythical world filled with fantastical creatures. A world from which there may be no return....
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Grim and great, this retelling whetted my appetite for more."—Holly Black, author of the New York Times bestselling Spiderwick Chronicles on Pay the Piper

"A smart and stubborn girl reporter unravels an ancient elvish curse and sets a rock and roll Pied Piper to rights in this modern day fantasy wild ride-I roared right through it!"—Tamora Pierce, author of Trickster's Queen

“Music, magic, and the middle child of three—these make a gripping combination. I couldn't put this book down.”—-Diana Wynne Jones, author of Howl's Moving Castle

"Music, magic, curses, and courage: Pay the Piper is my kind of book, and Callie McCallan is my kind of hero! Mighty cool book, but given that it's Adam and Jane, that's just what I expected!"—Emma Bull, author of War for the Oaks

"Music, magic, and mayhem! Jane Yolen's deep knowledge of world myth and Adam Stemple's mastery of world music combine to phantasmagorical effect in this faerie-fueled tale of two worlds."— Bruce Coville, author of My Teacher Is An Alien

Holly Black
"Grim and great, this retelling whetted my appetite for more."
Tamora Pierce
"I roared right through it!"
Diana Wynne Jones
"Music, magic, and the middle child of three—these make a gripping combination. I couldn't put this book down."
Emma Bull
"Pay the Piper is my kind of book, and Callie McCallan is my kind of hero! Mighty cool book!"
Bruce Coville
"Jane Yolen's deep knowledge of world myth and Adam Stemple's mastery of world music combine to phantasmagorical effect in this faerie-fueled tale."
Publishers Weekly
"The tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin gets a modern makeover at the hands of this mother-son team," wrote PW of their Pay the Piper. In a follow-up Rock 'n' Roll Fairy Tale book that melds The Three Billy Goats Gruff with The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Trollbridge by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple stars 16-year-old Moira, a harpist determined to save 11 girls who were selected to have their likenesses carved in butter but wound up enchanted into slumber. A teen boy band on break from a road trip, a magical fox and, naturally, a monstrous troll all figure into the proceedings. Pay the Piper is now in paperback. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
KLIATT - Paula Rohrlick
To quote from the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, July 2005: In this updated retelling of the tale of the Pied Piper, the piper is a rock ‘n roll legend named Gringras, who is the lead singer of the band Brass Rat. Gringras is also, it turns out, a Faerie prince, exiled by his father for killing his older brother. As punishment, he is required to pay his father a teind, or tithe, every seven years of "silver, gold, or souls." Seven years are almost up when Brass Rat comes to perform in 14-year-old Callie's hometown. She wrangles a press pass from the student newspaper to hear them play and to meet the band; she also overhears an argument about payment for the concert, which doesn't seem to be forthcoming. The next night, Halloween, Callie is at home working on her newspaper story when she learns that every child in town has mysteriously vanished—including her younger brother. Now it's up to her to figure out how to break the curse of the tiend and retrieve the children from the land of Faerie. This swift and entertaining read, co-authored by a noted fantasy writer and her musician/writer son, skillfully blends ancient magic with music and contemporary teen life. A second book in the series, The Troll Bridge, is promised.
Fourteen-year-old Callie is determined to see the hot band, Brass Rat. As a reporter for her school paper, she obtains a press pass so that she can interview the band when they give their Halloween concert. Talking her parents into attending the concert is surprisingly easy, as they, too, are fans. So, wonders Callie, just how long has this band been around, and how can they have played for so long when their members look so young? As Callie researches before her interview, one of the band members, Gringas, is making plans of a different, darker variety: It is time to pay the teind, the blood payment for the crime he committed in the land of faeries long, long ago. After the concert and interview, having overheard a mysterious exchange between band members, Callie starts unraveling the puzzle of the band. But before she can warn anyone, all the neighborhood children are lured into the mountains on Halloween night. Callie, too, is lured to follow, but she is determined to save them and break the curse of the piper. Veteran storyteller Yolen works with her musician son on this new interpretation of the Pied Piper of Hamelin story that will intrigue those middle schoolers who enjoy retellings of familiar stories or are lured by tales of the Faerie realm. Those who are fans of Cofer's Artemis Fowl books or Holly Black's Tithe (Simon & Schuster, 2002/VOYA October 2002) will find this novel somewhere in the middle in its depiction of the mysterious land under the earth. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2005, Tor, 176p., Ages 11 to 15.
—Mary Ann Darby
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-In this new twist on "The Pied Piper of Hamelin," a banished prince of Faerie has formed a folk rock band to earn the gold and silver he needs to buy off a curse he incurred by murdering his brother. When a promoter stiffs him, Prince Gringras turns to his third option for payment: leading children into Faerie, where their human souls can power the land of the Ever Fair. Although he succeeded in Hamelin and in other lesser-known locales, Gringras gets more than he can handle when he lures a group of trick-or-treaters that includes a high school reporter's little brother. Motivated first by the prospect of a great story, and later by fear for her brother, Callie follows Gringras into Faerie and undoes the curse that compels him to steal children away. The modern pacing and idiom of the scenes featuring Callie's goofy, upbeat family and friends make for a jarring contrast with the formal language used for the dark thoughts and actions of the exiled prince, and lengthy descriptions of Gringras's "rock and reel" band run the risk of alienating teens whose musical tastes favor other genres. However, these shortcomings won't deter readers who like a fast-paced Faerie tale, especially if they enjoyed Holly Black's Tithe (S & S, 2002).-Beth Wright, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington, VT Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Who captivates kids more than a mesmerizing rock star? The Svengali of this tale is the piper in the retro band Brass Rat. Attending their concert, 14-year-old Callie is enthralled by him as well as by another band member but soon senses something sinister about Peter Gringras and the group. An aura of menace wafts through the novel as Gringras's true identity and back-story are played out in an italicized parallel text. When the worst happens-the neighborhood children, including her brother, are spirited away by the flute on Halloween-Callie enters the land of Faerie to confront the piper. He's really a cursed fairy prince in mortal clothing who's obliged to render children up to his father as punishment for murdering his brother centuries ago. Callie devises a stratagem to send Gringras back "home" for good and to rescue the children in this rich homage to the Hamlin story. Brass Rat's "lyrics" are included. (Fiction. 11-14)
Washington Post

"This debut effort is a thriller."

"A rollicking good riff on the Pied Piper…. An entertaining as well as meaty read."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765311580
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 7/1/2005
  • Series: Rock 'n' Roll Fairy Tale
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 176
  • Age range: 10 - 18 Years
  • Lexile: 750L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.46 (w) x 7.84 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Meet the Author

Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen is one of the most distinguished and successful authors for young readers and adults in the country. The author of more than 250 books, including the immensely popular Devil's Arithmetic, she is the winner of dozens of prestigious awards, among them the World Fantasy Award and two Christopher Medals. She lives in Hatfield, Massachusetts.

Adam Stemple is a professional rock 'n' roll musician who has recorded a number of albums and owns his own music company. While he has had short stories published, Pay the Piper is his first book for young readers, and his first novel collaboration with his mother. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife, Betsy, and their two children.

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Read an Excerpt

Pay the Piper

A Rock 'n' Roll Fairy Tale

By Yolen, Jane


Copyright © 2006

Yolen, Jane

All right reserved.

ISBN: 0765350416

Pay the Piper
At last Gringas turned, grinned, and winked at Callie.
"Now, do you have any questions for me, young lady?"
"Um..." she said. It was not a good beginning
"Did you ever get enough money for your wife?" Nick asked suddenly.
Callie flushed. Not because it was a stupid question. In fact it was on her own mental list. But to ask it so baldly. And in that way. And the implication that--since Nick was her little brother--she wanted to know the answer especially was too much.
"Nicky," she said, her voice low, "shut up or go away. Or both."
Gringas looked at her a moment, and it was as if only the two of them existed in all the world. His voice was soft, musical, low. "Be careful what you wish, my lady, for it might come true. And then you will have many years to rue it."


Excerpted from Pay the Piper
by Yolen, Jane
Copyright © 2006 by Yolen, Jane.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

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Reading Group Guide


Jane Yolen has written more than 270 books, including Caldecott Medal winning Owl Moon and Caldecott Honor Book, The Emperor and the Kite. A songwriter, folklorist, and storyteller, Ms. Yolen has received two Nebula Awards, two Christopher Medals, and the World Fantasy Award, among others. She lives in Hatfield, Massachusetts and St Andrews, Scotland.

Adam Stemple is a professional musician, record producer, and member of several Minneapolis-based bands. An avid writer, Pay the Piper is his first book for children—and his first novel collaboration with his mother, Jane Yolen. 


An ancient legend and a modern mystery converge in this rocking retelling of the Pied Piper fairy tale. When aspiring teen journalist Callie McCallan attends a press conference of the legendary band Brass Rat, she senses something unusual. Backstage after the concert, Callie overhears the band members engaged in a bizarre conversation. Silver, gold, human souls, blood guilt, a mysterious “teind”— what can these strange words mean? And what is the true identity of the mesmerizing band leader Peter Gringras? Determined to unravel the truth behind Brass Rat, Callie stays home on Halloween night to write a school newspaper article about the band. Meanwhile, the rest of the town’s children disappear. While her reporter’s pragmatic instincts do internal battle with memories of folktales told by her grandmother, Callie struggles to sort truth from fantasy as she follows a musical trail in search of the vanished children

This richly layered rendering of the Pied Piper tale cast into modern-day surroundings challenges readers to consider the existence—and, perhaps, importance—of a place where fact and imagination can collide.


The information, activities, and discussion questions which follow are intended to enhance your reading of Pay the Piper. Please feel free to adapt these materials to suit your needs and interests.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    this book was all about the music great story!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    this book was so good. i started on saturday and i am done. this book takes you to a world that you want to be and not want to be. i love the charcater callie she is so real and smart.when she get the chance to write and report for her school paper(for the band brass rat) she is happy but there is something wrong with the band will that what it said on the back of the book. and that what it is about but there is more she knows things and she look at the world diffent then the other people in it. then she has to go to this world name(faerie) to get her brother thats mythical and with creatures that you do not want to see in your life. (she is 14 years old and she knows alot of things she looks at what she has to do and she go for it she is brave i was 14 once but if i want to a world like that i wouldn't know what to know . i dont think i would be that brave maybe i don't know ) but she trys to help out the piper(peter) is his name with something he just this character that you hate him in the beinning but then you see him in a new light at the end of the book i dont want to give alot away but if you like fairy tales this has music its funny you should read it and find out for yourself.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    fine version of the Pied Piper

    Fourteen-year-old Calcephony ¿Callie¿ McCallan is a school reporter school in Northampton, Massachusetts. She is excited by her job because this assignment enables her to go back stage while the popular rock 'n' roll band, Brass Rat performs. The only setback is that her parents make her bring her brother Nick with her. After listening to a recording by the group, Callie wonders why her classmates ate making such a fuss over this band. That is she wonders until she meets the dynamic lead singer Peter Gringras. His flute playing mesmerizes all who listen including Callie. --- However, on Halloween night as the Brass Rat performs, all the children including her kid brother Nick vanish. Callie thinks she knows why the children have been ¿abducted¿ and plans to rescue them as she plans to follow the magic flute into the land of faerie to make the piper pay, but she will soon learn how ¿faerie justice¿ works. --- The middle school crowd will enjoy this fine version of the Pied Piper starring a wonderful young heroine who risks her life to save her sibling and the other children from the unknown. As the audience learns the truth, feelings towards Peter the Pied Piper will change although he still committed the abductions. Young readers will enjoy the first rock and roll fairy tale while looking forward to future fantasies from this solid mother-son collaboration. --- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2005

    Great Book Good plot

    This book was great I highly reccomend it to any age and for any reader. It was really exciting, you will just want to know more until you know what happend. I also had no idea that it was a true story (with different characters, etc.)

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