March 03


Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle – Reviewed by Katie Priske

“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” –Gloria Steinem


drum dream girl


Don’t be afraid to dream. Don’t be afraid to imagine the possibilities. This quote from feminist, Gloria Steinem, captures the importance of dreaming. Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle also emphasizes the importance of dreaming. The book shows how one girl’s dreams can change the story being told about girls and create change.


Based on the true story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl, this book tells the story of a girl breaking tradition to follow her dreams. Millo is passionate about drumming, but in Cuba, females are not allowed to drum. However, when Millo was ten, she performed in an all-girl band with her sisters in 1932 and continued to play her drums. She paved the path for female drummers in Cuba, becoming a world famous musician.


Written with the rhythm of drums, this poem tells the story of how “one girl’s courage changed music.” This book provides an example of empowerment for young girls to follow their dreams and not be stopped by their gender. Even though men are her only example of drum players, the girl still believes that she can create her own music. She hears music all around her in everyday sights and sounds, like parrot wings and her own heartbeat. The people around her continually remind her that girls are not allowed to play the drums. But, as the poem says, “the brave drum dream girl dared to play” anyway. She is not stopped by the story being told to her. She gets invited to be in an all-girl band with her sisters, but her father does not allow it because she is a girl. The “drum dream girl” does not lose hope and continues to dream. She drums alone, keeping her passion alive.


Finally, her father decides to find the girl a music teacher to see if she really is talented on the drums. The girl’s music teacher is astonished by her talent and teaches her more about the drums. After practicing and practicing, the teacher agrees that the girl can play her drums at a café for others to hear. The crowd sings and dances as they listen to her music. As the poem says, the people decide, “girls should always be allowed to play drums and both girls and boys should feel free to dream.” By continuing to follow her dreams, the girl creates change.


This poem tells a story of perseverance. The girl does not give up on her dreams just because people around her believe that girls should not play drums. The girl defies gender stereotypes and challenges the story that is being told about girls and drums on the island. Because of this girl’s courage, other girls are now able to play drums on the island.


I believe this feminist children’s book is very important for both girls and boys to read, as it encourages everyone to follow their dreams and shows girls that they don’t need to be afraid to do anything just because they are a girl.


Katie Priske has been a lover of stories for as long as she can remember. She firmly believes reading and writing allows us, as human beings, to connect and understand one another in a unique way. Growing up in a small town in Iowa, books became the avenue through which she learned about different cultures and life experiences. The creator of the blog, Effable Empathy (, Katie focuses on the connection between books and empathy. She believes that stories have the power to change the conversation and provide insight into other people’s lives, creating a more empathetic world.