The Fastest Drummer: Clap Your Hands for Viola Smith!

Cover of The Fastest Drummer
The Fastest Drummer: Clap Your Hands for Viola Smith by Dean Robbins. Illustrated by Susanna Chapman.

By Dean Robbins
Illustrated by Susanna Chapman
Candlewick, 2024
32 pages

Ages 5-9

When Viola Smith first played the drums, “She lost the beat, made a terrible racket, and had more fun that she’d ever had before!” Born in 1912, Viola grew up in Mount Calvary, Wisconsin, where she and her sisters had a family band, the Smith Sisters Orchestra. They performed in town and around the Midwest, and Viola never passed up an opportunity to talk with other drummers about how she could improve. Most of her sisters lost interest in the band as they got older, but not Viola, who also knew women didn’t get as much respect or as many opportunities as men in the music business. To try to change that, she formed her own women’s band, The Coquettes, in the 1930s. During World War II, she advocated for women musicians to fill in for male musicians who were serving in the war. Spirited, curious, skilled, and dynamic, Viola performed with other renowned drummers and musicians throughout her career (she was sometimes called “the fastest drummer in the world” when she was younger; and was still playing at age 100). A vivacious picture book biography capturing Viola’s enthusiasm, drive, and force of personality is paired with mixed-media illustrations full of energy and movement. An author’s note telling more about Viola, glossary of musical terms, and sources are included. ©2024 Cooperative Children’s Book Center