THE STEEL PAN MAN OF HARLEM by Colin Bootman

THE STEEL PAN MAN OF HARLEM

by , illustrated by
Age Range: 5 - 8

KIRKUS REVIEW

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)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8225-9026-2
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Carolrhoda
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2009




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