Drum Dream Girl

DrumDreamGirl

Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Margarita Engle/Rafael López

Do you feel the beat? Have a desire to make music and feel rhythm in everything around you? Cuban-American poet Margarita Engle’s new picture book is about the Cuban drummer Millo Castro Zaldarriaga who dared to drum when it was taboo for a girl to do so.

Drum Dream Girl dreams of drums; she can’t help it because the music is a part of her but on her island of Cuba in the 30s, only boys can drum and even her father discourages her drumming. She continues to dream in drumbeats and every sound is a rhythm. Despite what everyone thinks, she drums and drums and even joins an all girl dance band formed by her sisters. Though he tells her once again that she shouldn’t play the drums, her father finally comes around and takes her to a teacher who nurtures her talent and helps her grow into a gifted drummer. Millo Castro Zaldarriaga would go on to be a world famous musician and her music, her defiance and passion, would inspire female musicians in her home and no doubt, around the world.

DrumDreamGirl

Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Margarita Engle/Rafael López

Passion, color, music and hope fill the pages through Raphael López’s glowing illustrations. He uses acrylic paint to create warm brown skin, large hands, wide expressive eyes, colorful flowers and birds and these details bring the island of Cuba to life. There’s often a smiling sun or moon shining down on Millo as she drum-dreams. Similar to Raul Colón’s illustrations in Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century, López draws a whirling strand of colorful ribbons to depict music. Engle’s poetry is beautifully descriptive and great for reading aloud. Drum Dream Girl will inspire you to learn more about Millo and it will make you feel like you’re in Cuba, sitting in a café on a hot summer night, sipping a drink and enjoying the sound of drums.

P.S. If you’re looking for more info about Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, check out the book Anacaona: The Amazing Adventures of Cuba’s First All-Girl Dance Band by Alicia Castro, published by Atlantic Books, London, 2007. Thanks for the info Margarita Engle and Tony Koehler!  🙂

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Defiance, Non-Fiction, Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Read-Aloud, Rhythm, Family, Poetry, Gender Non Conformity, Girl Power, Music, Music History, Cuba, Dreams, Drums, Biography, Jazz, Girls in Music, Black History Month, Black History Month Children’s Books
Book Info: Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle/Illustrated by Rafael López, 2015 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN: 9780544102293

 

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This Day in June

ThisDayinJune

Image Credit: Magination Press (American Psychological Association), Gayle E. Pitman/Kristyna Litten

What a cool book. The story is very simple but there’s quite a lot to experience if you soak in the illustrations and take time to read the guides at the end. This Day in June celebrates LGBT Pride celebrations and is a vibrant depiction of unity, love and acceptance. From “This day in June, Parade starts soon!” to “All Invited, All Excited” each page shows an aspect of a LGBT pride parade and all the fun, excitement and inclusion that it involves.

Rainbow colors, all types of families, confetti, “Born this Way” signs, people embracing, smiles galore and vibrantly dressed parade goers fill the pages and Litten’s illustrations are so happy and diverse. At the end of the book, there’s a Reading Guide that breaks down every page to give readers more context and information about the history of the parade. I recommend reading these notes because they’re interesting and some references in the story will make more sense after reading them if you weren’t previously knowledgeable. Parents might even consider reading the notes to themselves before reading the story to children to fluff up the presentation while reading aloud.

ThisDayInJune2

Image Credit: Magination Press (American Psychological Association), Gayle E. Pitman/Kristyna Litten

Because this book is published by the American Psychological Association, there’s also a Note to Parents and Caregivers in the back of the book. It discusses how This Day in June can be helpful in promoting discussion about the LGBT community AND there are notes about how to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity to children of various ages. Picture books are always great catalysts for discussion and learning but with these extra tools included, teachers and parents have an extra guide. Get ready for great discussions about important issues of identity, love, expression and celebration!

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Celebration, Parades, LGBT Community, Discussion, Pride Parade, Family, Friendship, Colors, Read-Aloud, Non-Fiction
Book Info: This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman/Illustrated by Kristyna Litten, 2014 Magination Press (American Psychological Association), ISBN: 9781433816581

When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc & the Creation of Hip Hop

WhenthBeatWasBorn

Image Credit: Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan Kids), Laban Carrick Hill/Theodore Taylor III

 

When the Beat Was Born is the perfect example of how a “picture book” can be used to explore current events, modern history and socially relevant topics. Laban Carrick Hill gives us just enough to peak our interest in hip hop history.

The story begins in Kingston, Jamaica in the 70s with Clive Campbell’s budding passion for music. Though he was too young, he wanted to go to the awesome house parties thrown by DJ King George. He also admired his enormous records collection. Soon he moved to NYC with his mom and though he didn’t fit in at first, he was great at sports, grew to be a large boy and gained the nickname “Kool Herc.” His dad bought an impressive sound system for the house and he began spinning and filled the Bronx with his sound. Next thing he new, he was throwing parties and people were coming from all over NYC. People danced during the breaks (break dancing) and soon enough, he was a DJ…and hip hop was born!

At the back of the book, Hill adds his own reflections and personal experience with the early days of hip hop. This personalization really adds something special to the book. There’s also a nifty hip hop timeline that puts everything in place historically; there were multiple players who contributed to the creation of hip hop as we know it today. Theodore Taylor III’s illustrations are funky and bold and bring the parties to life. The dark colors he uses create the feeling of a nighttime party and a dark, thriving club scene.

When the Beat Was Born is great for hip hop heads, for hip hop heads who just had a baby, for hip hop head teachers who want their kids to learn about the origins of hip hop and for any person who wants to learn something new! 🙂  The possibilities of this book are endless for any history and music lover. Check out this book and be inspired to look up the origins of hip hop!

Recommended for: 2nd Grade and up
Great for: History, Diversity, African-American, We Need Diverse Books, Music, Hip Hop, DJ, Music History, Social Issues, Community, Pop Culture, Biography, Non-Fiction
Book Info: When the Beat Was Born by Laban Carrick Hill/Illustrated by Theodore Taylor III, 2013 Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan Kids), ISBN: 9781596435407

The Good Little Book

TheGoodLittleBook

Image Credit: Tundra Books (Penguin Random House), Kyo Maclear/Marion Arbona

 

“There is no frigate like a book” – Emily Dickinson

As Dickinson wisely says above and as any lover of reading knows, a good book can take you places. You don’t need tickets or luggage. All you need is a great story and a comfy place to sit.

The Good Little Book is delightful. If you’re looking for an excellent book about the power of reading, this is the one. In the first few pages of the story, we learn that The Good Little Book is very average; it doesn’t have any medals or honors but for just the right person, it can become the perfect book. A boy discovers it while sitting in the study after being sent there to reflect on his behavior. Before he knows it, he’s consumed by the story and The Good Little Book takes him to faraway lands. As time passes, he reads the book over and over again but one day he loses it on the street! He searches all over for his book and though he doesn’t give up hope, he starts to read MORE stories. Maybe he’ll be okay without The Good Little Book after all…

Arbona’s gouache and pencil illustrations are very quirky and memorable. They suit the quiet yet fantastical tone of the story and the palette she uses includes a lot of rich, earthy hues. I love that the book we read IS The Good Little Book…his cute smile graces the front cover and his burgundy body with his cheeky expressions can be found on just about every page. This is quite a good little book that your family will enjoy!

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Encouraging Reading, Discussion, Community, Imagination, Sharing
Book Info: The Good Little Book by Kyo Maclear/Illustrated by Marion Arbona, 2015 Tundra Books (Penguin Random House), ISBN: 9781770494510