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

By: Margarita Engle

Illustrator: Rafael López

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?

Historical note. Full-color mixed-media illustrations.

ISBN: 9781481487405

JLG Release: Oct 2019


Sensitive Areas: None
Topics: Teresa Carreño (1853–1917) , Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) , Pianists , Immigrants , Music , Venezuela , Child prodigies , Biography , Civil War (1861–1865)

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Awards & Honors

Kirkus Best Books - 2019
CSMCL Best Books - 2019
CPL Best Books - 2019
The Nonfiction Detectives Best Nonfiction Books - 2019
2020 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award Winner

Praise & Reviews

Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:

Kirkus Reviews*, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, The Horn Book Magazine

Horn Book

The author-illustrator team behind Drum Dream Girl (rev. 5/15) brings us another engaging picture-book biography about a young, successful, female Latinx musician. Teresa Carreño (1853–1917) learned to play piano early in life in Venezuela, her “happy hands danc[ing] / across all the beautiful / dark and light keys.” When the young mu The author-illustrator team behind Drum Dream Girl (rev. 5/15) brings us another engaging picture-book biography about a young, successful, female Latinx musician. Teresa Carreño (1853–1917) learned to play piano early in life in Venezuela, her “happy hands danc[ing] / across all the beautiful / dark and light keys.” When the young musician was eight, her family members had to flee their war-torn country and move to New York. In this foreign city she became a well-known child prodigy. Her skill and status provided her with traveling oppor-tunities and an extraordinary chance: to play at the White House for President Lincoln, who was still grieving the death of his young son. There she plays joy-fully and with improvisation, knowing that “her music / had brought comfort to a grieving family, / at least for one brief, wonderful evening / of dancing hands.” 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. A brief historical note with more facts about Carreño’s life is appended.

Book Details

ISBN

9781481487405

First Release

October 2019

Genre

Nonfic

Dewey Classification

B

Trim Size

10 1/2" x 9"

Page Count

40

Accelerated Reader

Level 5.5; Points: 0.5;

Scholastic Reading Counts

Level 11.9; Points: 3;

Lexile

N/A

Format

Print Book

Edition

Hardcover edition

Publisher

Atheneum

Potentially Sensitive Areas

None

Topics

Teresa Carreño (1853–1917), Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865), Pianists, Immigrants, Music, Venezuela, Child prodigies, Biography, Civil War (1861–1865),

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Cover Art

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