Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music
by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
2016 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award
Inspired by a true story of a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba’s traditional taboo against female drummers, the book clearly encourages children to follow their hearts and dreams.
A young girl who loves drumbeats listens to them in fascination. She listens to the conga drums, the bongo drums and the timbales and imagines herself playing them. But on her island, only boys can play drums. She kept her drum-beating dreams to herself, beating and dancing beats when she could, at home, in the parks, or in her dreams. One day her older sisters invite her to join their all-girl band and she is elated! Only her traditional father says only boys should play the drums. So she continues to drum alone. But then one day her father offers “to find a music teacher who could decide if her drums deserved to be heard.” The teacher was amazed at her abilities and the girl practiced and practiced. One day he suggests she play in public, and soon the traditional ways fell aside.
The bright, contrasting colors depict the many moods the drums elicit and bring the drumbeats and rhythms into the reader’s heart.
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by Margarita Engle, illustrations by Aleksky and Olga Ivanov
Henry Holt and Company, 2013
Written in poem, told in two voices, 11 year old Tony, and his rescue dog Gabe captured me and lifted me to a new understanding of healing after living in an abusive home. Deftly written, readers glimpse into a boys transition in life dealing with an abusive lifestyle, foster care, search and rescue dogs, and learning love and respect. A compelling, change-of-life story.
Tony’s mother goes to prison for illegally running pit-bulls fights and Tony falls into the foster system. Fortunately, a relative is found and Tony goes to live with his loving and respectful Uncle Tio who volunteers on rescue missions with his dog. In this environment, wary Tony discovers and adjusts to a new life. Throughout the story Tony struggles to visit his mom in prison, but in the end gives up and chooses to live his own life.
Seeing the world from a dog’s perspective—the second voice in the story—is also fascinating and held my attention, curious on what a dog might be really thinking. The story is rich with ideas to ponder.
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Tiny Rabbit’s Big Wish
by Margarita Engle, illustrated by David Walker
Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2014
A tiny rabbit shares the dreams of the small child, of growing bigger. Author Margarita Engle captures, in a poetic voice, a small child’s frustration of thinking, wishing and dreaming of growing bigger, “but he grew only to the height of a slightly taller small rabbit.” And illustrator David Walker portrays the innocence of the very youngest in colorful, simple illustrations. But there are some times when the tiny rabbit is “ENORMOUSLY” happy he is small.
Playful, full of innocence, a heartfelt book for some children’s very biggest concern; a delight to read.
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Tags: Margarita Engle, David Walker, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, picture book, rabbit, being small