BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López

Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle on BookDragonThank the stars for all the women who never succumbed to ‘you can’t’ and ‘you’re not allowed,’ and the constant cacophony of insistent ‘no’s. Meet another such hero: drum dream girl. In spite of her strikingly diverse heritage – Chinese, African, and Cuban! – all her elders agree on one thing: “only boys should play drums.”

On her “island of music in a city of drumbeats,” drum dream girl played conga, bongó, timbales, in her “quiet / secret / drumbeat / dreams.” Her own “imaginary music” sustained her, as her footsteps danced and her heartbeat thrummed. In spite of “everyone / [who] kept reminding her that girls / on the island of music / had never played drums,” she joined her older sisters in their all-girl dance band – only to be silenced by their own father. But naysayers couldn’t stop the beat … and dreams do come true.

Written in lyrical free verse by Cuban American Margarita Engle, the eponymous drum dream girl is identified in the ending “Historical Note” as Millo Castro Zaldarriaga “who broke Cuba’s traditional taboo against female drummers.” At age 10, in 1932, she performed with her sisters in Cuba’s first “‘all-girl dance band.’” At 15, she played at President Franklin Roosevelt’s birthday bash in New York, “where she was enthusiastically cheered by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt” – strong, rebel women always find one another.

Award-winning, Mexican American artist Rafael López infuses Engle’s text with gorgeous color, magical landscapes, and whimsical details throughout. He rouses readers to examine the story from different perspectives, literally turning the orientation of the pages from horizontal to vertical with a 90-degree re-redirection. His characters’ gaze continuously moves across and beyond the page, encouraging new ways of seeing with every turn of Engle’s mesmerizing story.

For drum dream girl, ‘no’ turns out to be a catalyst for change. Drums are her the tools; determination her path to achieving and sustaining her dreams. Almost a century later, her inspiration plays on …

Readers: Children

Published: 2015


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