Inherent in everything adults do should be a wish for the world to be better for those following in their footsteps. Our children need to believe all things are possible. Opportunities should be available for them to pursue regardless of their gender.
It would seem music would rise above any obstacles, visible or invisible but there was a time in a place this was not so. Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, March 31, 2015) written by Margarita Engle with illustrations by Rafael Lopez is a poetic and pictorial tribute to a girl who felt the earth's rhythm. Every place held potential for making a measured melody.
On an island of music
in a city of drumbeats
the drum dream girl
In her mind's eye she captured a cadence, sounding it out on conga or bongo drums and the timbales. Her hands carried the beat to the instruments. Unfortunately on this island only boys and men were allowed to play drums.
This did not stop the girl from dreaming. It only made her desires grow stronger. Hearing others make music set beats singing in her heart. Wherever she walked, she listened.
In the picturesque park, with the cavorting carnival dancers or alongside the dragon drummers, she felt the tempo. Even in her own home, constantly reminded drumming was not for girls, she moved her fingers on every surface, playing the conga or bongo drums and the timbales. In her dreams she could do anything. And she did it well.
So impressed with her skills, her older sisters invited her to play in their all-girl dance band. At first her father was firm in his refusal. Perhaps her determination to continue, even alone, softened his stance for he found her a teacher. Learn. Learn. Learn. Practice. Practice. Practice. Dreams, drumming dreams, do come true.
When Margarita Engle wrote the poetry for these pages, it's as if her words are drumming. Alliteration and onomatopoeia will have your fingers moving without you even being aware. Based upon the life of Chinese-African-Cuban Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, the girl's passion for making music with her drums is visible on every page. Here is another sample portion of a passage.
...so the drum dream girl
had to keep dreaming
Rendered in acrylic paint on wood board the matching dust jacket and book case and interior illustrations by Rafael Lopez take readers into another time and place. The rich, vivid darker colors are truly like stepping into dreams. Wanting to play drums on an island filled with music, even though she was a girl, did not stop her from hoping. On the back, to the left of the opened jacket and case, a smiling man in the moon looks down on her as she sleeps on a conga drum suspended among tree branches near the water. The opening and closing endpapers feature a night scene of lush flora and fauna native to her island. A stunning two page illustration of the girl sitting on a crescent moon drumming above the island of music provides the canvas for the text on the title page.
Nineteen double-page images, two vertical, with breathtaking beauty enhance and extend the language used by Engle. The depicted people and animals are fully alive whether the moment is real or magical. The girl is in splendid harmony within her world and in her dreams.
There are many of these illustrations which are favorites but one which stands out with particular emotional impact is the one when her father decides to let her learn with a teacher. On the left a larger smiling moon is watching through tree branches within purple clouds. A flying bird with legs is on the lower cloud. Between the two clouds is the drum dream girl playing. Colored ribbons are wrapping around her. The ends of the ribbons, gathered together, are held by her father, on the right, standing outside their home at night. He is pulling her toward him. The look on their faces conveys happiness and love.
Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle with illustrations by Rafael Lopez is filled with hope. The melodic words and eloquent paintings blend with natural elegance. This book is for those who know dreams come true and for those wishing they do. A Historical Note and Acknowledgments supplies further information about Millo Castro Zaldarriaga.
To learn more about Margarita Engle and Rafael Lopez, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites. Here is the link to Rafael Lopez's blog. Julie Danielson, author and blogger at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, speaks with both Engle and Lopez here, Beating the Drum for Women's Rights. Toward the end of 2011 Julie Danielson featured Rafael Lopez on her blog. Follow this link to a discussion guide. Educator Alyson Beecher shares her views on this title at Kid Lit Frenzy. Enjoy the book trailer. Update: November 23 2015 As an introduction to one of the #SharpSchu December selections Scholastic Ambassador of School Libraries John Schumacher interviews Rafael Lopez at Watch. Connect. Read.