NONFICTION

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

Atheneum S. & S./. Aug. 2019. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481487405.
COPY ISBN
PreS-Gr 2–Teresa Carreño achieved global fame as a performer, composer, pianist, and opera singer. By the age of six, she was composing. At the age of seven, she began performing. Revolution in Venezuela forced the Carreño family to migrate to New York, an unfamiliar place where few people spoke Spanish and her family felt out of place. But war would follow them—in 1863 the United States was in the midst of the Civil War. At the age of 10, Carreño was invited to play for President Abraham Lincoln and his family at the White House. But will a poorly tuned piano diminish her performance? This is a story of overcoming fear and using one’s talents to spark joy despite unforeseen obstacles. 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. A historical note in the back matter provides slightly more insight, but Engle’s writing occasionally seems to take liberties with individual characters’ thoughts and emotions with little supporting evidence.
VERDICT Despite the efficacy of the author and illustrator collaboration, the historical facts remain somewhat sketchy throughout the narrative. A gentle title to add cultural insight to any collection, though possibly best for larger budgets

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