PB Gush: Drum Dream Girl

Never give up on your dreams. This picture book shows young dreamers that anything is possible if you wish with your whole heart and work hard. Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music, written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael López, is inspired by a girl who kept dreaming after her biggest aspiration was discouraged because of a gender stereotype. And that, my friends, is why I can’t wait to gush about it.

Quick synopsis: A girl who lives on an island of music dreams of playing the drums. But she’s told only boys should play drums. So she dreams about making her own music as she walks the island and secretly practices by drumming on tables and chairs. Her big sisters realize the rhythm of her fingers and ask her to join their new all-girl band, but their father reminds them that only boys should play drums. So the girl continues to dream, until something unexpected happens. Read it to find out how it ends.

I swooned over this poetic text after reading the first few spreads. The rhythm is musical like the island on which the drum dream girl lives. Engle uses many wonderful poetic elements that make the text sing. There’s consonance and alliteration in the first stanza and throughout the book. And the repetition in this book is thoughtful. There’s enough to add to the rhythm but not so much that it overtakes the story. The repetition of “only boys / should play drums” is powerful and conveys the drum dream girl’s constant struggle.

The illustrations in this book are some of the most vibrant I’ve seen. They are colorful, imaginative, and dreamy. I think the illustrations work so well in this book because the author left ample room for the illustrator. Engle rarely prescribes certain pictures through her words. As a result, López shows the reader the wonderful world of dreams. The girl plays drums that hang in the sky, taps drumsticks on a smiling moon, and drums as a mermaid in a dream sea. The colors and textures of the illustrations are soft and eye-catching.

What I love most about Drum Dream Girl is the message: you can make your dreams come true if you work at them and never let them go. And what’s better is this PB is inspired by a true story. In the 1930s, Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl, kept dreaming about drumming despite a taboo. She broke through the boys-only stereotype and went on to become a world-famous musician. Millo is a bright star of hope for girls and boys everywhere.

This PB encourages me to never give up on my dreams no matter how unattainable they seem. I hope it does the same for readers young and old.


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