Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, October 22, 2018

When Angels Sing: the Story of Rock Legend Carlos Santana by Michael Mahin

When Angels Sing: the Story of Rock Legend Carlos Santana
by Michael Mahin; art by Joe Ramirez
Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2018
Grades 4 up

A beautiful picture book biography on the life of musician, Carlos Santana.

His father wanted to name him Geronimo, after the brave Apache freedom fighter. But his mama had the last word.  His name would be Carlos.

It seems from the very beginning, Santana loved music. His father and grandfather were traveling musicians. Carlos loved the sound of his father’s violin. When he was home, “people would crowd the square to hear him play. It was a sound that filled the world with magic and love and feeling and healing. It was a sound that made angels real.” 

Carlos “wanted to make the angels real too.”

Readers travel alongside Carlos as he tries different instruments, clarinet, trumpet, and violin. It is not until he is given la guitarro (a guitar) that he finds his true instrument. It would take many years until Santana discovered his unique sound. The Santana Blues Band from San Francisco, “took the soul of blues, and the brains of jazz, and the energy of rock and roll.“ To this mix, Santana added Afro-Cuban drums. It was playing at Woodstock in 1969, that propelled Santana to international fame.

Illustrations, rendered in acrylic and enamel markers on canvas, are bright and colorful. They have a folk art style and perfectly complement the text. 

Back matter includes an author’s note that goes into more detail on Santana’s experience at Woodstock, a bibliography, and suggested listening. The book lacks dates nor explains exactly where Santana was born. 

This will be a perfect book to introduce Santana to readers. Like he did in his biography of Muddy Waters, Mahin has composed a heartfelt tribute to rock legend, Carlos Santana. 

I am listening to Santana’s 1969 album, Santana as I write this review. I clearly remember the first time I heard this album. It was like nothing I had heard before. A unique sound that makes you want to dance.

I borrowed a copy of this book from my local library to write this review. 

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