The Steel Pan Man of Harlem

  • Interest Level: Kindergarten - Grade 3
  • Reading Level: Grade 2

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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Interest Level Kindergarten - Grade 3
Reading Level Grade 2
Genre Picture Books
Category Diverse Books: Race & Ethnicity, Diversity
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Carolrhoda Books ®
Language English
Publication Date 2009-08-01
Text Type Fiction
BISACS JUV011010, JUV022000
Dewey [E]
Graphics Full-color illustrations
ATOS Reading Level 3.6
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 130848
Accelerated Reader® Points 0.5
Features Awards, Original artwork, Reviewed, and Starred Reviews

Author, Illustrator: Colin Bootman

Colin Bootman is the award-winning illustrator of many books for children, including Young Frederick Douglass, Almost to Freedom, and The Steel Pan Man of Harlem—which he also wrote. He and his books have received numerous awards, including the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor, the Schneider Family Book Award, and the Teacher’s Choice Award. Born in Trinidad, Mr. Bootman came to the United States at the age of seven and found that art helped him cope with his new environment. Once a young artist himself, Mr. Bootman hopes his art can encourage children to follow their dreams and embrace their passions.


  • ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award, Short-listed, 2009


Library Media Connection

“The rich and beautifully rendered oil paintings provide the feel of the Harlem Renaissance.”
Library Media Connection

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. . . 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.”
Publishers Weekly

School Library Journal

“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.”
School Library Journal