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The Jazz Man
Weik The Jazz Man cover.jpg
First edition
Author Mary Hays Weik
Illustrator Ann Grifalconi
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Atheneum Books
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages 42 pp

The Jazz Man is a children's book written by Mary Hays Weik and illustrated by her daughter Ann Grifalconi. The book was published by Atheneum Books in 1966 and received a Newbery Honor in 1967. A second edition was published in 1993 by Aladdin Books.The Jazz Man has also been published in Germany and South Africa.

Plot summary

The Jazz Man is the story of a nine-year-old boy named Zeke, who lives with his parents on the top floor of a brownstone in Harlem. The story begins with Zeke remembering an old home he used to live in down South. He later explains how the five flights of stairs he usually walked up to get home made his "legs ache beat hot and fast when he first came to live there." Over time, he got used to the stairs, but the stairs still troubled his mother. At night, when she returned from work, he would often hear her struggling to climb up the long flights of stairs.

One of Zeke's legs is shorter than the other, and "the kids downstairs stared at his lame foot and made him feel hot and different." Because of this, Zeke skipped school most of the time and remained in his apartment staring at windows across the courtyard. He becomes intrigued by an apartment with a window that is always closed. He watches this window for a while, contemplating who might be moving into the apartment. Eventually, a man with a piano moves in. Zeke calls him the Jazz Man. The Jazz Man plays all day and night.

Zeke enjoys the music with his family. The Jazz Man's music helps Zeke's mother forget her tiredness and her inability to pay the rent. It also helps Zeke's father forget about his unemployment. Zeke watches as the Jazz Man jams with his friends, who play the saxophone, drums, and trumpet.

As summer ends, Zeke's mother starts to get more and more irritated by the stairs. She argues with Zeke's father because of his recurrent unemployment. That night, Zeke's mother crys while reading him a bedtime story.

The next morning Zeke's mother leaves and doesn't return, forcing Zeke and his father to learn how to survive on their own. Soon, Zeke's father begins neglecting his duties at home and at times stays out for many days without leaving Zeke any food. Zeke becomes quieter and skinnier. He tells his neighbors that his mother left to visit her rich aunt, but everyone, including Zeke, knows that this is a lie.

After a while, Zeke realizes he hasn't heard from the Jazz Man for some time and looks across the courtyard, only to see that he has left the apartment. Zeke leaves his building one morning and walks across the street. He finds the Jazz Man playing with his friends at a large party. Confused, Zeke pinches himself and wakes up to his father's voice. Zeke is with his mother and father listening to the Jazz Man from their window. Zeke realizes that he has been dreaming the entire time.

Character List

Zeke - A nine-year-old boy who lives in Harlem. One of his legs is shorter than his other leg, and he spends most of his time listening to the Jazz Man instead of going to school.

Zeke's Mother - She works many hours and often comes home tired. She dances when she is happy.

Zeke's Father - He is unemployed.

Tony - One of the men who plays music with the Jazz Man. He is Italian and plays the trumpet.

Ernie - An African American man who plays the saxophone and plays with the Jazz Man sometimes.

Manuel - Another friend of the Jazz Man who plays the drums.

Mrs. Dowdy - One of Zeke's neighbors from across the courtyard. She lives in the apartment with clean, shiny windows and fancy curtains.

Lispie - A girl who "had been born without all her brains." She lives across the street from Zeke in the apartment with the crooked green blinds.

Old Bill - A man who lives across the courtyard from Zeke in the apartment with the dirty, cracked window. He drinks from his brown bottle all day and curses at anyone he catches looking at him.

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