Drummer Boy of John John

Mark Greenwood, illus. by Fran%C3%A9 Lessac. Lee & Low, $18.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-60060-652-6
A roti (a folded pancake "filled with chicken and secret herbs and spices") might not seem like a rich enough prize to inspire the creation of a musical instrument, but Winston is hungry, and he knows that the best band in the Carnival parade will win one. He discovers that cookie tins and paint cans in the junkyard make sounds ("tom ping tom pah") and that he can "tune" the metal surfaces by hammering them. This is a biography of a real person: Winston "Spree" Simon is the creator of Trinidad's signature steel drum. Working in gouache, Lessac, who worked with Greenwood on The Donkey of Galli-poli, combines bright tropical backgrounds of lemon yellow, sky blue, and palm green with the crowns, feathers, streamers, and rhinestones of Carnival costumes to make folk art–style paintings with firecracker energy. Funky onomatopoeia should give out-loud readings pizzazz ("The chac-chac players rattled rustling sounds. shoush-shap shukka-shap shoush-shap shukka-shap"), and dynamic type makes the words shimmy on the page. Valuable both for its portrait of a child inventor and a vibrant community of color. Ages 5–10. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/27/2012
Release date: 09/01/2012
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