Drum Dream Girl

Written by Margarita Engle

HMH Books for Young Readers 2015

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.

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Pura Belpré Medal
Illustration 2016

School Library Journal 

Best Books List 2015

Huffington Post
Most Inspirational Picture Book 2015

New York Public Library
100 Notable Titles List 2015

Asian Pacific America

Award Honor 2016

Notable Social Studies Trade Book
for Young People 2016

Charlotte Zolotov Award


López’s zinging, neon-tinged art highlights the island’s diversity, depicting the drum girl’s flights of fancy set against the backdrop

of carnival scenes and outdoor cafes. Details of Cuba’s and the protagonist’s Chinese, African, Taíno, and Spanish roots are

seamlessly interwoven into the lyrical narrative and luminous acrylic paintings. 

School LIbrary Journal


Pura Belpré Award-winning illustrator Rafael López’s sophisticated acrylic illustrations bring this story of one girl’s daring to vivid life.

“I discovered Millo when I first read Margarita’s poetic script,” López tells me, “and immediately connected to the story.

It reminded me of my own mother’s struggle to pursue her dreams in Mexico City.”

Kirkus Reviews


Engle's poetic narrative combines with López's warmly ethereal folk-art illustrations to evoke a nightime tropical dreamscape.

New York Times Bookshelf



KIRKUS: Beating the Drum for Women's Rights