¡Mira Look!: Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle

drum dream girlSaludos, todos! This week we are featuring Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music, written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael López. As some of you may remember, we recently featured Margarita Engle in our Author’s Corner, where we gave you some biographical information, as well as some resources for exploring and teaching some of her works in young adult and children’s literature. In Drum Dream Girl, Engle does not cease to amaze us yet again. With Drum Dream Girl (ages 3-8) we continue our March celebration of Women’s History Month and our theme of women’s rights and experiences in children’s literature, by focusing on the story of a lesser-known historical figure. Through her beautiful poetic prose, Engle tells the biographical tale of a young, Cuban girl who counters gender norms in order to become one of Cuba’s most iconic female drummers.

drumdream 9López’s stunning illustrations complement Engle’s lyrical prose in a culmination of female empowerment and pride. As illustrator López dedicates the book to his “architect mother, Pilo, whose courage opened the ceiling above her dreams,” readers are reminded of the strength and brilliance of older generations of women, paving the way towards freedom and rights for younger generations. This book strongly resonates with the legacy of women’s rights and empowerment throughout history, in the Americas and beyond.

Drum Dream Girl is based on the true story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl living in the 1930s who successfully struggled against the social stigma for female drummers, becoming one of Cuba’s great, historic musicians. Engle narrates the tale through concise, lyrical writing, consistent with her style of fusing poetry and prose: “But everyone/ on the island of music/ in the city of drumbeats/ believed that only boys/ should play drums/ so the drum dream girl/ had to keep dreaming/ quiet/ secret/ drumbeat/ dreams.” This style is both easy for younger readers to follow and digest, and lyrically pleasing for older readers or adults.

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¡Mira, Look!: Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa

celiaHello there readers and Vamos fans! This month we are proudly celebrating Latina and Latin American women! I am delighted to present to you this week a wonderful book that celebrates the life of one of the most influential females in the history of Cuban music: Celia Cruz. The book, Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa, written by Veronica Chambers and illustrated by Julie Maren, is, of course, about the late, great Cuban-American salsa singer and performer, Celia Cruz.

Here is a description from Goodreads:

Everyone knows the flamboyant, larger-than-life Celia, the extraordinary salsa singer who passed away in 2003, leaving millions of fans brokenhearted. Now accomplished children’s book author Veronica Chambers gives young readers a lyrical glimpse into Celia’s childhood and her inspiring rise to worldwide fame and recognition. First-time illustrator Julie Maren truly captures the movement and the vibrancy of the Latina legend and the sizzling sights and sounds of her legacy. 

Beginning with childhood anecdotes, the book spans most of Celia’s life. We learn that she grew up in a crowde20150218122356480_Page_05d home in a poor section of Havana with a very close family. From a young age she would sing to her younger siblings, by which she would gain the affection of her neighborhood. We learn that Celia was initially shy, but that it did not keep her from singing.

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¡Mira, Look!: Letters to My Mother

letters to my motherFirst, please allow me to say that I hope you are celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day well. Usually, we wouldn’t post on a holiday. However, the issue of civil rights is so large that there is simply so much literature available for review that relate to the topic. So today, we have a book for you! For this week, we will be discussing Teresa Cárdenas’s Letters to My Mother. While it does not necessarily deal with civil rights, this book includes a discussion of race and racism that is appropriate for young adults.

Letters to My Mother is a book about a young, Afro-Cuban girl who goes to live with family members after the death of her mother. In this book, this young lady communicates with her dead mother by writing letters to her. In fact, this whole book is a compilation of letters, each of which begins with “Mamita” or “Querida Máma.” While it is clear that the narrator is struggling to deal with the loss of her mother, she is finding it equally difficult to acclimate to her new surroundings. While the death of one’s mother, especially at a young age, is a difficult situation, her family’s attitude towards her compounds the issue. This young lady is taunted by her own family because of her dark skin. They utilize stereotypes regarding people with dark skin, and they make her feel like an alien in her own skin. As she begins to find a life outside of her family, she meets other young people who are also suffering from issues of identity.  Continue reading