To be a drum

Author Coleman, Evelyn
Language English
Morton Grove Ill.: Albert Whitman & Company, 1998


Daddy Wes tells how Africans were brought to America as slaves, but promises his children that as long as they can hear the rhythm of the earth, they will be free.

Subjects :

  • Slavery Fiction
  • African Americans Fiction
  • Drum Fiction

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Author Illustrator(s) :

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Best Books :

  • Best Children's Books of the Year, 1999 , Five to Nine Today
  • Kirkus Book Review Stars, 1998 , None

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Awards, Honors & Prizes :

  • Skipping Stones Honor Award , Multicultural And International , 2000

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Reading Measurement Programs:

() .

Accelerated Reader

Interest Level LG
Accelerated Reader Points 0.5

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Reviews :

Carolyn Phelan (Booklist)
As Mat and Martha sit on the ground with Daddy Wes, he tells them: "Long before time, before hours and minutes and seconds, on the continent of Africa, the rhythm of earth beat for the first people . . . . The beat moved through our bodies and pushed out from our fingers. That is how our drum was born." In the pages that follow, Daddy Wes relates the history of African Americans, mentioning slavery, handiwork, song, soldiering, invention, civil rights battles, arts, and literature, all spoken of in terms of the drumbeat of the people, the heartbeat of the earth itself. Daddy Wes urges his children, and ultimately the reader, to hear that heartbeat and become their own drums, beating out their own rhythms. An unusual combination of history, exhortation, and tactile images, the text offers a dramatic read-aloud opportunity, given the right teller's voice. The art, too, combines many elements (paint, vintage fabric, cotton fibers, clay, buttons) to create a vibrant, eclectic series of scenes. An original. Category: For the Young. 1998, Albert Whitman, $16.95. Ages 5-8.
(PUBLISHER: Albert Whitman & Company (Morton Grove Ill.:), PUBLISHED: c1998.)

Susie Wilde (Children's Literature)
Daddy Wes tells his two children "long before time...on the continent of Africa, the rhythm of the earth beat for the first people." He describes how the beat moved through bodies, pushed out from fingers, and a drum was born. The drums were taken away from slaves. Those who became the drum pushed out the earth's spirit with their entire bodies. In brief but poignant vignettes of African-American history Coleman tells how her people embraced this beat: courage became drums in war or minds became drums in inventions; drums became communities, art, story and dreams. The book ends as Daddy Wes walks off with his children, "the heartbeat of the earth sounding their way." Incredible textural collages become the drums of Coleman's story, beating out the history, beauty, and a richness of movement and color. 1998, Whitman, $16.95. Ages 5 to 9.
(PUBLISHER: Albert Whitman & Company (Morton Grove Ill.:), PUBLISHED: c1998.)

Kathleen Karr (Children's Literature)
Mat and Martha's daddy tells them a story about the spirit of African people. He uses the image of drumbeats to explain their history and accomplishments. Coleman's simple, repetitive narrative is amplified by Robinson's art--collages of fabric scraps, raw cotton, clay, and other evocative elements which primary art teachers should find both fascinating and inspirational. 1998, Albert Whitman, $16.95. Ages 4 up.
(PUBLISHER: Albert Whitman & Company (Morton Grove Ill.:), PUBLISHED: c1998.)

Kirkus (Kirkus)
The drum is a mytho-poetic symbol that links people to their African roots and to the rhythm of the earth, or so Daddy Wes tells his children, Mat and Martha. In broad sweeps of history--covering slavery, war, civil rights--and in the struggle for intellectual and artistic pursuits, Daddy Wes declares that the underlying heartbeat of a people is the drum. Metaphorically extending the idea, he explains that when the literal drum was taken from the slaves, the rhythm was internalized: "When we talked to each other, we made our speech drums. When we stitched our quilts, we made our hands drums." The message hovers, rising from the core of African-American experience, even when the image becomes abstract, even when the moralizing momentarily overtakes the drumbeat. That's the moment, in this joyful and robust chronicle, to turn to the art, where the energetic montages bustle with multi-textured backgrounds and figures, employing cloth, cotton, old buttons, sisal, wool, clay, and more, in theatrical, pulsing settings. 1998, Whitman, $16.95. Starred Review. © 1998 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.
(PUBLISHER: Albert Whitman & Company (Morton Grove Ill.:), PUBLISHED: c1998.)

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Publication Details:

  Publisher ISBN Notes
Morton Grove Ill.: Albert Whitman & Company, 1998

Media Type: Language Material
1 v. (unpaged):
PZ7.C6746 ([E])
Albert Whitman & Company (Morton Grove Ill.:), PUBLISHED: c1998.,

Media Type:


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