Panama Francis, , illus. by Eric Velasquez. . Cavendish, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7614-5088-7

Jazz drummer Francis, who died last year, collaborated with Reiser (coauthor of Carry It On ) for this story about how the musician acquired his first drum. As a child in Miami, David would use spoons and pieces of furniture to play makeshift drums. Each Sunday, he watched in awe as a drummer named Brulla Roberts led the local band down the streets. David senses that he, too, is a drummer: "He felt it with the itch in his fingers and the rhythm in his wrists." But when his parents give the six-year-old a drum and he plays it as he marches behind Roberts, he accidentally tears the top of it. The story's rhythm falters as the text laboriously describes the lad's unsuccessful attempts to repair the instrument. Yet the tale ends on a satisfying note: Roberts visits David's home, bringing the youngster a thrilling gift—his own first drum. When David insists that it must be magical, Roberts says with prescience, "Drummer man's magic doesn't come from the drum. The magic comes from the drummer man." If there is a touch of magic in this volume, it can be found in Velasquez's (The Piano Man) remarkably realistic oil paintings, which effectively convey the story's era and Southern setting. A few of the portraits may be stilted, but David's warmth shines through. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)