Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music

by Margarita Engle (Author) Rafael Lopez (Illustrator)

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

Girls cannot be drummers. Long ago on an island filled with music, no one questioned that rule--until the drum dream girl. In her city of drumbeats, she dreamed of pounding tall congas and tapping small bongós. She had to keep quiet. She had to practice in secret. But when at last her dream-bright music was heard, everyone sang and danced and decided that both girls and boys should be free to drum and dream.

Inspired by the childhood of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba's traditional taboo against female drummers, Drum Dream Girl tells an inspiring true story for dreamers everywhere.

School Library Journal

Gr 1-4--The award-winning Cuban American author has made her mark on children's literature with her powerful portrayals of little-known aspects of Cuban history, often shedding light on the Afro-Cuban experience. This work is inspired by the childhood of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke down traditional taboos against female drummers. Lopez's luminous illustrations represent the island's diversity. Details of Cuba's and the protagonist's Chinese, African, Taino, and Spanish roots are interwoven into the lyrical narrative and the vibrant acrylic paintings.

Copyright 2017 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

A riot of tropical color adds sabor to the tale of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who dreams "of pounding tall conga drums, / tapping small bongo drums/ and boom boom booming/ with long, loud sticks/ on big, round, silvery/ moon-bright timbales." Everybody in Cuba believes that only boys should play the drums, and her own father forbids her to perform, but the "drum dream girl" (as she's referred to throughout) finds her own drums, practices, and persists until her father relents and hires a teacher. Lopez's (Tito Puente, Mambo King) paintings fuse dream and reality as the girl flies through the air, drumming on the moon and making music with butterflies and birds; Engle's (Silver People) lines dance with percussive sound words and rhythmic repetition. Though an afterword reveals that Zaldarriaga later became famous enough to perform for Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Engle focuses on her initial struggles rather than her subsequent career. A valuable addition to the growing library of stories about strong Latina women. Ages 4-8. Author's agent: Michelle Humphrey, Martha Kaplan Agency. Illustrator's agent: Stefanie von Borstel, Full Circle Literary. (Mar.)

Copyright 2015 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
Margarita Engle
Margarita Engle is the Cuban American author of many books including the verse novels Rima's Rebellion; Your Heart, My Sky; With a Star in My Hand; The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor winner; and The Lightning Dreamer. Her verse memoirs include Soaring Earth and Enchanted Air, which received the Pura Belpré Award, a Walter Dean Myers Award Honor, and was a finalist for the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, among others. Her picture books include Drum Dream Girl; Dancing Hands; and The Flying Girl. Visit her at MargaritaEngle.com.

Sara Palacios is the recipient of a Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor for Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match and the illustrator of several other picture books, including The Flying Girl. Sara graduated with a degree in graphic design and went on to earn BFA and MFA degrees in illustration from the Academy of Art in San Francisco. A native of Mexico, Sara now lives in San Francisco.

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
March 20, 2015
Age Range
4 - 7 years
Pura Belpre Award
Winner 2016
Charlotte Zolotow Award
Winner 2016
Georgia Children's Book Award
Finalist 2017

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