Dancing Hands

  • Title: Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln
  • Author: Margarite Engle
  • Illustrator: Rafael Lopez
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
  • Publication year: 2019
  • Brief Summary: From Simon & Schuster-“As a little girl, Teresa Carreño loved to let her hands dance across the beautiful keys of the piano. If she felt sad, music cheered her up, and when she was happy, the piano helped her share that joy. Soon she was writing her own songs and performing in grand cathedrals. Then a revolution in Venezuela forced her family to flee to the United States. Teresa felt lonely in this unfamiliar place, where few of the people she met spoke Spanish. Worst of all, there was fighting in her new home, too—the Civil War. Still, Teresa kept playing, and soon she grew famous as the talented Piano Girl who could play anything from a folk song to a sonata. So famous, in fact, that President Abraham Lincoln wanted her to play at the White House! Yet with the country torn apart by war, could Teresa’s music bring comfort to those who needed it most?”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – Because this is a moment in the life of a real person, and the historical context is The Civil War, this could be taught in a variety of ways. Perhaps students could read about the real Teresa Carreño before or after reading this book. Perhaps students could read about Abraham Lincoln and about his life the moment Teresa met him. I found this lesson plan from Atheneum Books that has an extensive discussion guide and activities to do with students.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – I was interested to read this book after the group presentation on illustrator Rafael Lopez. Like many of the books I have picked out with him as the illustrator, I am stunned by his colorful, whimsical illustrations. Particularly in this book, where as Teresa plays, the music is personified as waves of color, tropical birds and flowers soaring around her. I think that is a beautiful interpretation as many people (adults and children) imagine music in many ways.

Let the Children March

  • Title: Let the Children March
  • Author: Monica Clark Robinson
  • Illustrator: Frank Morrison
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication year: 2018
  • Brief Summary: From Houghton Mifflin Harcourt-“In 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, thousands of African American children volunteered to march for their civil rights after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak. They protested the laws that kept black people separate from white people. Facing fear, hate, and danger, these children used their voices to change the world.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library –I definitely think this one should be in a school library and should be used while children are learning about The Civil Rights movement. I think what makes this particular book standout is that it is about the Child’s March and I think children would connect/empathize more with this story then just a book about The Civil Rights Movement. I found this activity guide from the blog Library Lessons With Books that gave an idea to use this book along with another book for a compare and contrast lesson.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it –I think Morrison’s illustrations really convey feeling and emotion. Especially in his haunting illustration of the children being hosed down by police.


  • Title: Rosa
  • Author: Nikki Giovanni
  • Illustrator: Bryan Collier
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
  • Publication year: 2004
  • Brief Summary: From Macmillan Publishing: “Fifty years after her refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus, Mrs. Rosa Parks is still one of the most important figures in the American civil rights movement. This tribute to Mrs. Parks is a celebration of her courageous action and the events that followed.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – Much as I said All Because You Matter is an important book for black and brown children’s self-esteem and could be used in the beginnings of discussions on The Civil Rights Movement, so too can this book. This book more than many that I have covered is not important but needed on the discussion of The Civil Rights Movement. While this book has large pieces of text, it can still be digested by young children. This book could easily go all the way to 3rd grade. While it is a non-fiction picture book, it presents the facts in a creative, meaningful way. For reference and simply for a historical refresher (or if you want to be encouraged) here is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have A Dream speech in its entirety from NPR.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it. – I really think I would include this book in my Best 50 List. This book is so so important. It is important to learn about Rosa Parks and how integral she was to that Supreme Court decision. But this book is also important because it teaches children about the terrible injustice in the murder of 14-year-old Emmett Tills and how these and other injustices happening to African Americans every day (and unfortunately, still happening) was the impetuous for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to head The Civil Rights Movement and for, in 1963, that famous speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The illustrations in this book are filled with a life and vitality. Children can learn about this true historical event in vibrant color and rich texture. One of my favorite illustrations is of the Women’s Political Council sitting around a table at Alabama State making the pamphlets that would be distributed among Montgomery’s African American population. The scene is multi-faceted with the colored patterns of the women’s shirts, and the reader feels as if the page is moving as the pamphlets swirl around them.