Millo Castro Zaldarriaga was born in Cuba in the 1920s and grew up attuned to the rhythms in the world around her, and inside her. She dreamed of drumming, but only boys and men learned how to play at that time. She dared to drum anyway, “tall conga drums / small bongo drums / and big, round, silvery / moon-bright timbales … Her hands seemed to fly / as they rippled / rapped / and pounded / all the rhythms / of her drum dreams.” Her father said no when her sisters asked ten-year-old Millo to join their band. Only boys should play drums, he said. But Millo couldn’t silence the sounds.
Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are sent to rural Alabama to spend the summer of 1969 with their grandmother, Big Ma, and her mother, Ma Charles. Before putting them on the Greyhound bus, their father tells them: “… Once you cross the line from North to South all of that black power stuff is over.” At 12, Delphine is old enough to understand and believes she can keep her younger sisters in line. But 10-year-old Vonetta is enjoying the attention of Ma Charles and her half-sister and life-long rival, Aunt Miss Trotter.
n 1967, Rose is an old woman looking back on her childhood in Skullyville, Oklahoma, in 1897, in a novel that moves back and forth between Rose, her family and Choctaw community, and residents of the nearby town of Spiro. Among them is the marshall, a man who is despised by Choctaw and whites alike. His cruelty is often random, as when he strikes Amafo, Rose’s grandfather, at the train station one day. Amafo turns the other cheek, and in doing so finds allies among some of the whites in Spiro while leading his community away from confrontation.
“Sky grumbles. Rain tumbles. Big weather — you’d better … get under umbrella! BOOM BOOM.” A rainstorm in the big city on a summer day means the appearance of umbrellas, a mad dash for the subway, and a spontaneous, generous-spirited gathering belowground. “The storm above makes friends of strangers. We laugh under cover at thunder and danger.”
“This is how you tell a story: First you introduce the main character. I’m writing this story about me, so I am the main character.” Rose loves homonyms, prime numbers, and order. It’s important to her that everyone follow the rules. She lives with her dad, Wesley, whose name is not a homonym, and her dog, Rain, whose name is. When Rain disappears during a hurricane, Rose channels her worry into a methodical search with the help of her Uncle Weldon. But in finding Rain she learns that her beloved dog, which her dad brought home for her almost a year before, belongs to someone else.
Robbie Robertson’s rise to fame as a founding member of The Band, and writer of some of the iconic songs of the late 1960s and early 1970s, is chronicled by his son Sebastian in a substantial and engaging picture book biography. From the time he was a young child visiting his Mohawk relatives on the Six Nations Reservation in Canada, Robertson was immersed in “rhythm, melodies, and storytelling.” And from the time he got his first guitar, he spent hours practicing. “On the reservation, eleven-year-old Robbie had surpassed the adults as the best guitarist.”
A young boy wonders where his family will get the new baby he’s been told will be coming. His neighbor Olive tells him a seed will grow into a baby tree; his teacher says the baby will come from the hospital; Grandpa says a stork will bring the baby; the mailman thinks it has something to do with eggs. Back at home in the evening, he asks his parents, who tell him about the seed from his dad and the egg from his mom, and the baby that will grow inside her until it’s ready to be born, “sometimes at home, but usually at the hospital.”
Glory O’Brien is directionless as high school graduation approaches. She’s most comfortable looking at the world through a camera lens, and she views her own life with a certain dispassion, the way she views the people she photographs. But everything changes after she and her best friend, Ellie, drink the remains of a petrified bat. Glory can now see the history and the future of everyone she looks at. And the future Glory sees is far more unsettling than wondering if she will commit suicide in the not-too-distant future, like her photographer mother did when Glory was four. The visions Glory has over and over are of a second U.S. Civil War that erupts around a charismatic, misogynistic leader who strips women of their civil rights.