Title: The Pied Piper of Hamelin
Author: Michael Morpurgo
Illustrator: Emma Chichester Clark
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Concepts: wealth, poverty, scarcity, inequality, incentives, taxes, economic role of government, allocation and distribution
Review: Hamlin Town had several big problems, with the biggest of all taking the form of a greedy mayor who hoarded much of the town's wealth. He and his councilors had become filthy rich by taxing the townspeople more than three quarters of what they earned, and then using that money to pay for personal luxuries. Life in Hamlin became increasingly precarious, with a large shantytown on the outskirts, growing heaps of garbage, and a burgeoning group of orphaned and abandoned children who had to resort to petty thievery in order to survive.
This unfortunate situation would have continued were it not for a new problem caused by all that garbage: rats. Large, cunning, and aggressive rats infested the town to that point that even the mayor became desperate. Desperate enough to make a bargain with a mysterious stranger who carried a silver flute around his neck. The Pied Piper would rid Hamlin of all the rats within an hour if the mayor would pay him but one gold coin. As the Pied Piper liked to say, "Enough is always as good as a feast," so one coin would suffice. Little did the mayor realize when he failed to uphold his end of the bargain that it was not only the rats that responded to the magical flute.
This retelling of the classic fable focuses on economic aspects that make the story so compelling, including the problems with exorbitant tax rates, income inequality, and dire poverty. Exquisite illustrations and masterful story telling make this book a must-read.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children