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.


“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.”

– 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


Pura Belpré Medal Illustration 2016
Andrew Carnegie Medal 2017

Charlotte Zolotow Medal 2016
School Library Journal Best Books List 2015
New York Public Library 100 Notable Titles List 2015
Huffington Post Most Inspirational Picture Book 2015
Asian Pacific America Award Honor 2016
Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People 2016

Drum Dream Girl Video Winner of the 2017 Andrew Carnegie Medal