Hey, Charleston!

The True Story of the Jenkins Orphanage Band

  • Interest Level: Grade 2 - Grade 5
  • Reading Level: Grade 2

What happened when a former enslaved man took beat-up old instruments and gave them to a bunch of orphans? Thousands of futures got a little brighter and a great American art form was born.

In 1891, Reverend Daniel Joseph Jenkins opened his orphanage in Charleston, South Carolina. He soon had hundreds of children and needed a way to support them. Jenkins asked townspeople to donate old band instruments—some of which had last played in the hands of Confederate soldiers in the Civil War. He found teachers to show the kids how to play. Soon the orphanage had a band. And what a band it was.

The Jenkins Orphanage Band caused a sensation on the streets of Charleston. People called the band’s style of music "rag"—a rhythm inspired by the African American people who lived on the South Carolina and Georgia coast. The children performed as far away as Paris and London, and they earned enough money to support the orphanage that still exists today. They also helped launch the music we now know as jazz.

Hey, Charleston! is the story of the kind man who gave America “some rag” and so much more.

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Interest Level Grade 2 - Grade 5
Reading Level Grade 2
Genre Picture Books, Social Studies
Category Diverse Books: Race & Ethnicity, Diverse Books: Social Class, Diverse Books: Social Justice, Diversity
Copyright 2013
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Carolrhoda Books ®
Language English
Number of Pages 32
Publication Date 2014-08-01
Reading Counts! Level 8.3
Text Type Narrative Nonfiction
BISACS JNF025210, JNF036020
Dewey 784.4'4060757915
Graphics Full-color illustrations
Dimensions 10.625 x 8.875
Lexile 1040
ATOS Reading Level 5.6
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 159696
Accelerated Reader® Points 0.5
Features Awards, Original artwork, Reviewed, Teaching Guides, and eSource

Author: Anne Rockwell

Anne Rockwell is the author of Hey, Charleston!:The True Story of the Jenkins Orphanage Band, which was a Junior Library Guild Selection. She lives in Stamford, Connecticut.

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.

Lerner eSource™ offers free digital teaching and learning resources, including Common Core State Standards (CCSS) teaching guides. These guides, created by classroom teachers, offer short lessons and writing exercises that give students specific instruction and practice using Common Core skills and strategies. Lerner eSource also provides additional resources including online activities, downloadable/printable graphic organizers, and additional educational materials that would also support Common Core instruction. Download, share, pin, print, and save as many of these free resources as you like!

Hey, Charleston!

What happened when a former enslaved man took beat-up old instruments and gave them to a bunch of orphans? Thousands of futures got a little brighter and a great American art form was born. In 1891, Reverend Daniel Joseph Jenkins opened his orphanage in Charleston, South… View available downloads →


  • Louisiana Young Readers' Choice Nominee, Nominated, 2015
  • South Carolina Book Award Nominee, Nominated, 2015
  • Jefferson Cup Award Honorable Mention, Commended, 2015
  • Carter G. Woodson Book Award, Winner, 2014
  • Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year, Winner, 2014
  • Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) Choices, Winner, 2014
  • Missouri State Teacher's Association Reading Circle Selection, Winner, 2014



“A fascinating piece of history, complemented by Bootman’s hazy full-bleed paintings.” —Booklist

Publishers Weekly

“Rockwell (Truck Stop) keeps the story focused and lively, with just enough social and emotional framing (Reverend Jenkins ‘was always looking for a way to turn bad into good’ is a recurring refrain) to add resonance. Bootman’s (Love Twelve Miles Long) sepia tones and military blues beautifully evoke a distant time.” —Publishers Weekly

School Library Journal

“Rockwell’s informative text is lively and accessible, and Bootman’s realistic, full-spread paintings capture the era and energy of the musicians and onlookers dancing and clapping to the beat.” —School Library Journal

Kirkus Reviews

“Rockwell relates her tale in a fast-paced narrative that will hopefully encourage readers to turn into listeners. Bootman’s emotive, full-bleed artwork provides a lively accompaniment. A notable look at a little-known piece of jazz history.” —Kirkus Reviews