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The Steel Pan Man of Harlem (Carolrhoda Picture Bks Series)

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Once upon a time in the city of Harlem, there was a terrible problem. Rats had taken over the city. They were everywhere - subways, restaurants, even people's homes! The mayor didn't know what to do. Then one day a stranger stepped off the subway and began playing a melody on a simple steel pan. People began to dance. The man went to the mayor and told him he could play many melodies, including one that would solve Harlem's rat problem - for a price. The mayor had no choice. He agreed. The man was true to his ...

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Overview

Once upon a time in the city of Harlem, there was a terrible problem. Rats had taken over the city. They were everywhere - subways, restaurants, even people's homes! The mayor didn't know what to do. Then one day a stranger stepped off the subway and began playing a melody on a simple steel pan. People began to dance. The man went to the mayor and told him he could play many melodies, including one that would solve Harlem's rat problem - for a price. The mayor had no choice. He agreed. The man was true to his word. He played a melody to drive away the rats. But the mayor refused to keep his word. The man with the steel pan had no choice. He played the mayor another tune for another purpose. . . . A captivating retelling of The Pied Piper of Hamelin, set in the Harlem Renaissance.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bootman (Fish for the Grand Lady) triumphs with this gorgeously moody, thoroughly cinematic retelling of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, ingeniously set during the Harlem Renaissance and starring a mysterious musician from the Caribbean (who, it should be noted, has more than a passing resemblance to Laurence Fishburne). The oil paintings conjure up a gritty, workaday world where magic has taken hold: the vermin do cannonballs into bathtubs, and straphangers at the 125½ Street subway platform are suddenly transformed into feverish Lindy Hoppers when the stranger begins to play his steel pan (“He held the sticks in the air, closed his eyes, and began playing the sweetest melody anyone had ever heard”). With text that beautifully embellishes the pictures, and a far happier and more politically relevant ending than the original (after Harlem’s white mayor reneges on his promise to pay the musician for driving out the rats, he’s seen fox-trotting out of town, never to be seen again), this book has all the makings of a spellbinder. Ages 5–9. (Nov.)
Children's Literature - Joella Peterson
In this modern rendition of The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Bootman combines the classic steel pan music of the Caribbean and the diverse culture of Harlem. Harlem has a problem. There are thousands and thousands of rats everywhere. People have tried catching them—but there are just too many. When traps, cats, and even the exterminator cannot solve the problem, a group of citizens head to the mayor's office to see what he is going to do to solve the problem. A few weeks later a man shows up at the "125 ½ Street subway station." He pulls out a steel pan and begins to play. He plays so well that everyone cannot help but dance. Soon the man heads to the mayor's office where he makes an offer the mayor: he will get rid of all of the rats in exchange for one million dollars. The mayor agrees, but of course does not want to follow through. In this modern twist, the Steel Pan Man plays his pan so that everyone has to dance until the mayor finally gives him is money. The contrast between the bright, vibrant illustrations of the people of Harlem and the dark, subdued illustrations of the rats show readers the contrast between the hope and the grim rat-situation of this New York community. This book is another fine piece of storytelling—with a modern twist. Reviewer: Joella Peterson
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2—In this variation of "The Pied Piper of Hamelin," Bootman celebrates the infectious music produced by Caribbean steel pans and the lively street life of Harlem in the first half of the 20th century, and provides a timeless lesson about the value of keeping a promise. Harlem is plagued by rats, and a stranger comes to deliver the community from the infestation. He carries an instrument no one has heard before and plays a beguiling melody. He strikes a deal with the mayor, deports the vermin on a garbage barge, and requests his payment. When the mayor refuses, rather than leading the children out of the city, the stranger sets everyone dancing, including the mayor, and they can't stop. The desperate official hands over the promised million dollars and dances out of sight, never to return. Bootman's full-color paintings are full of life and his steel pan man has quite a gleam in his eye. A great way to revitalize a well-known tale.—Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY
Kirkus Reviews
Bootman delivers a reimagined "Pied Piper of Hamelin," set in 1940s Harlem. Rats run amok; the city's powerless against them. When a mysterious man with an enchanted steel drum offers to eradicate the rats for $1,000,000, the desperate mayor agrees. The Pan Man lures the rats onto a barge. When, as in Browning's poem (credited in an author's note), the mayor reneges, the musician retaliates. Instead of leading children away, however, he enchants the whole populace-they dance unceasingly to his tunes. When the mayor pays up, the Pan Man releases all but him from the spell, exacting a personal revenge that will strike an odd chord for those unfamiliar with the poem. The best pictures are the jitterbugging dance scenes, invigorated by popular cultural imagery of the day. The teeming, almost anthropomorphized rats dominating the first two spreads create a disequilibrium never quite redeemed by the narrative and illustrations, which don't achieve the symbiotic interplay that characterizes more successful work-including the illustrator's own, in such books as Almost to Freedom, by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson (2003). (Picture book. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822590262
  • Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/1/2009
  • Series: Carolrhoda Picture Bks Series
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.40 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Colin Bootman was born in Trinidad where he spent the first seven years of his life. During this time, he was inspired by the island's rich and diverse culture. Mr. Bootman's first book, Young Frederick Douglass, was published in 1994 and received starred reviews. He has since illustrated many children's books, textbooks, periodicals, and book covers. Mr. Bootman has worked with several publishers including Random House (Follow the Leader), Harper Collins (In My Momma's Kitchen), Scholastic (Oh, No, Toto!), and Holiday House (Papa's Mark). Mr. Bootman is the recipient of the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor 2004, the Schneider Family Book Award 2006, the Ashley Bryan Lifetime Achievement Honor 2006, and several others. His books have won such awards as The Teachers' Choice Award, The Comstock Award, The Storytelling World Award, The Golden Kite Honor, and many others. Mr. Bootman's first written and Illustrated book (Fish For The Grand Lady), debuted in the fall of 2006. He previously illustrated Almost to Freedom, a Carolrhoda Picture Book, for Lerner Publishing Group.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    interesting take-off on the Pied Piper

    Have you heard about the Pied Piper of Hamelin, made famous by Robert Browning's poem? Author Colin Bootman, who spent his early childhood in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and at age seven moved to the United States, where he now lives in Brooklyn, remembers hearing the classic tale during a school library "read aloud." In his modern retelling of the story he sets the action in New York's Harlem, where many Caribbean folks had emigrated in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Rats are everywhere. Everyone is demanding that the mayor do something, but he doesn't know what to do. Then, one day, a stranger appears at the busy 125 1/2 Street subway station, takes out a shiny, round steel pan drum, and begins playing music. Everyone begins dancing. The steel pan drum is believed to have been invented in the Caribbean during the Carnival seasons of the late 1930s. The stranger then goes to the office of the mayor and offers to rid the city of rats for a million dollars. The mayor first balks at the price but eventually agrees. The Steel Pan Man then gets on a garbage barge and plays his instrument. All the rats jump on the barge and off they go. However, the next day the major refuses to pay the fee. What will the Steel Pan Man do? And what will happen? Children will like the intriguing narrative as well as the colorful illustrations. And, of course, there is the important message of doing the right thing and keeping one's word. I certainly recommend The Steel Pan Man of Harlem.

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