Tun-TUN-dun-TUN! Even though nobody in her Cuban-American neighborhood thinks girls should play the drums, Chavi knows she was born to drum. And the whole world is her instrument: she drums on paint cans, sofa arms, even on her mother’s cheeks. Her favorites, however, are the tumbadoras, the conga drums that liven the Caribbean music she and her neighbors love. So, when she’s not picked to play on the school float for the festival on Miami’s Calle Ocho, she decides to do something about it!
I had to put in a request for this touching picture book by Mayra Lazara Dole–it wasn’t on the shelf at my local branch, and I’m not surprised! I’ll bet kids love this book. The colorful illustrations by Tonel perfectly capture the ebullience of this Cuban-American girl; she immediately reminded me of Isis in Zora Neale Hurston’s short story, “Drenched in Light.” Despite attempts to repress her buoyant spirit, Chavi is determined to play the drums on her school float in the Calle Ocho parade. She is the best drummer in the class, yet her gender prevents her from being selected to represent the school. Chavi wants to be a good daughter and show respect to her elders, but can she do that while still remaining true to herself? Especially touching are the scenes where Chavi acknowledges the sacrifices her mother is making for her; when she is caught drumming, Chavi is taken to the factory where her mother is pictured scrubbing the floors on her hands and knees. Yet a kind boss sends them both to the festival and in the end, it is Chavi’s drumming the wows the parade goers and makes her mother proud. This is a fun book with a sly feminist message–brava, Mayra!