Dancing Hands

“Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln” By Margarita Engle, Illustrated by Rafael López (2019) – hardcover 

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Dancing Hands introduces readers to the life of Teresa Carreño, a world-renowned pianist, singer, composer, conductor and much-sought-after piano instructor during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Once again, it took a children’s book to bring to light the story of such an historic feminine figure. Carreño was a female, Venezuelan immigrant whose endless dedication to music led her to become a child prodigy and one of the greatest pianists of her time. 

In Dancing Hands, Engle focuses on Carreño’s early years, up until age nine, when she received a White House invitation to give a private concert for President Lincoln and his family. A historical note at the back of the book provides a broader biography of Carreño’s extraordinary life. Engle presents Carreño as a brave and tenacious little girl who had to overcome many obstacles at such an early age. From fleeing her home country due to a civil war, to feeling like an outsider in a new country where no one looked like her or spoke her native language, Carreño’s story is sure to resonate with other refugee or immigrant children. And hopefully will inspire them to find their own voices and talent to share with the world! 

Rafael López’s mixed media technique for the illustrations provides such a rich and emotive backdrop to Engle’s words. He used acrylic on wood board, implementing sticks and other tools as paint brushes, watercolors, construction paper, pen and ink. You’ll want to flip back through every page to analyze his work and figure out how he pieced together all of the wonderful illustrations! 

Take-away message: Be bold in the face of challenges and let your talent speak for itself! 

TAGS: female lead, Latinx, Venezuelan, Notable POC, hardcover 

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