Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, October 28, 2019

Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln By Margarita Engle


Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln
By Margarita Engle; Illustrated by Rafael López
Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2019

Teresa Carreño (1853-1917) was a musical prodigy. Born into a musical family in Venzuela, Teresa was composing her own music by age six. When war broke out in her country in 1862, the family relocated to the United States. “By the time the ship arrived in New York, Teresa felt lost. She was homesick. How could she ever play happy songs again in this unfamiliar country where she did not know a single friend?” How? She played music.

Traveling with per Papá, Teresa grew so famous that when she was ten years old she received an invitation to play at the White House for the Lincoln family, “she could hardly believe her eyes.”  There, despite a piano badly out of tune, Teresa brought a moment of happiness to a family still reeling from the death of their child. (Lincoln’s son, William, “Willie” Wallace died February 20, 1862)

Partnering with Engle’s rich narrative are beautiful illustrations by López. Rendered in mixed media (acrylic on wood board, using sticks and other tools to paint; watercolor; construction paper; pen; and ink: and then assembled digitally, Lopez’s art is colorful and perfectly accompanies the text.

Back matter only includes a note by the author.

This vibrant, richly told picture book biography would be a perfect classroom read aloud for all ages. Especially in high school.

Teachers, informational picture books are the perfect vehicle for opening up conversations with students.

To write this review, I borrowed this book from my local public library.

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