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Dancing Hands

How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln

Illustrated by Rafael López
LIST PRICE $17.99

Winner of the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award
A Kirkus Reviews Best Picture Book

In soaring words and stunning illustrations, Margarita Engle and Rafael López tell the story of Teresa Carreño, a child prodigy who played piano for Abraham Lincoln.

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?

Photograph © Marshall W. Johnson

Margarita Engle was the 2017¬–2019 National Young People’s Poet Laureate, and received the 2019 NSK Neustadt Prize. She is the Cuban American author of many verse novels, including Your Heart, My Sky; With a Star in My Hand; The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor winner; and The Lightning Dreamer, a PEN Literary Award for Young Adult Literature winner. Her verse memoirs include Soaring Earth and Enchanted Air, which received the Pura Belpré Award, a Walter Dean Myers Award Honor, and was a finalist for the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, among others. Her picture book Drum Dream Girl received the Charlotte Zolotow Award. Margarita was born in Los Angeles, but developed a deep attachment to her mother’s homeland during childhood summers with relatives. She continues to visit Cuba as often as she can. Visit her at MargaritaEngle.com.

Photograph © Rafael Lopez

Rafael López was born and raised in Mexico, a place that has always influenced the vivid colors and shapes in his artwork. He now creates community-based mural projects around the world and illustrates acclaimed children’s books including The Day You BeginBravo!, Drum Dream Girl We’ve Got the Whole World in Our Hands, Book Fiesta!, and Dancing Hands. Rafael divides his time between Mexico and California. Visit him at RafaelLopez.com.

* “Engle's free verse whirls and twirls, playful and vivacious, while López's vivid, colorful artwork elevates this story to heavenly heights. Like a concerto for the heart.”

– Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Lyrical, imagery-rich text . . . Patterned mixed-media illustrations use color to evoke the lushness of Venezuela, the darkness of war, and the beauty of music. Concluding with a historical note, the biography’s vibrant images and language form a melodious composition.”

– Booklist

"López’s swirling colors, soaring birds, and scattered notes conjure music’s transportive powers amid the countries’ war-torn landscapes, complementing Engle’s text, and building 'hymns . . . shimmered like hummingbirds.'"

– Publishers Weekly

"Engle’s writing shines through powerful descriptions and connections between music and feelings. López’s vivid illustrations expertly alternate between lush, vibrant hues, and gray, muted depictions of darker times; they evoke characters and historical settings with absorbing detail."

– Horn Book Magazine

"Author and illustrator are well paired in this interesting narrative. Darks and lights, whether representing world events or the colors of the piano keys, are recurring themes that Engle cleverly entwines in her at times poetic writing. López’s illustrations practically leap from the page as they mirror the tone of events—bright and beautiful when the story is light; dark, drab, and gray when echoing conflict."

– School Library Journal

  • Kansas NEA Reading Circle List PrimaryTitle
  • Keystone to Reading Book Award Reading List (PA)
  • CBC/NCSS Notable Children's Book in Social Studies
  • Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best
  • Pura Belpre Award
  • Eureka! Excellence in Nonfiction Award Honor Title (CA)
  • New York Public Library Best Books for Kids

More books from this author: Margarita Engle