Margarita Engle's Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music
Illustrated by Rafael López
Book review by Emily Rose Aguiló-Pérez
In the most recent winner of the Pura Belpré Award, free-verse poetry and vibrant colors give life to the true story of a girl who defied societal norms to achieve her dream of playing drums.
Margarita Engle wrote this poem inspired by the true story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who wanted to play the drums but was told drums were for boys.
At the age of ten Millo was able to perform with her older sisters in an all-girl dance band called Anacaona.
Everything around Millo presented a musical opportunity, a place to envision herself creating beats: "At home, her fingertips rolled out their own dreamy drum rhythm on tables and chairs.…" She wanted with all her heart to become one those drummers she admired - all men.
Everyone kept repeating that drumming wasn't for girls.
One day, her father decided he would let her play the drums if a teacher thought she was good enough. And, well, she was beyond good. She knew so much and the teacher taught her so much more, until she was ready to play at a café.
"…where everyone who heard her dream-bright music sang and danced and decided that girls should always be allowed to play drums and both girls and boys should feel free to dream."
And so she paved the way for other girls to play the drums.
If you love poetry and beautiful artwork, you will love this book.
Covered in bright colors, Rafael López's drawings create a poem of their own. They evoke the brightness of Cuban days, with tones of yellow, orange, and red. Equally lively are his paintings of nights in Cuba, in which the sky, the stars, the moon, and all of nature seem to come alive.
Nature is at the forefront of every illustration, depicting the varied fauna and flora of the island.
This complements Engle's poetry, especially in showing that the girl can find music and inspiration in everything around her.
When she walked under
wind-wavy palm trees
in a flower-bright park
she heard the whir of parrot wings
the clack of woodpecker beaks
the dancing tap
of her own footsteps
and the comforting pat
of her own
Drum Dream Girl is poetry and art in two forms. There's poetry created through words and through drawings. At the same time, the drawings as well as the words paint pictures of music, nature, and life.
More Pura Belpré books.
More of Emily's reviews.
Best Children's Books - Find, Read or Write home page.