This is a really tremendous book for school-aged readers!
Samantha (Sam) really wants to be a drummer. She takes drumming seriously and even though some of the other drummers (all boys) are better than her right now, she’s hoping that with some practice and determination, she will make the jazz band. All she needs is more practice. But there’s no way her parents will ever be able to afford a drum set. She practices in her room with a collection of books and notebooks and other items from her room, each set up and representing a drum or cymbal from a drum kit.
Sam really wants to beat the boys out of a spot in jazz band, but then word comes from her middle school band teacher that due to budget cuts, band is being cut from the curriculum for the next year.
This is devastating for Sam. Band in school is the only way she’ll ever get the drum lessons she so badly wants. Unless…
Pete Taylor is the best drum teacher in town. Some say he even has TWO drums sets in his home. Without band in school, the only alternative for Sam is to take private lessons. But Pete’s lessons cost $30 per half hour. Sam’s parents would never agree to that, even if Pete Taylor would agree to take on a new student.
But Sam gets an idea. She will borrow her dad’s lawnmower and mow lawns every week in order to make the necessary weekly pay for lessons from Pete. She manages to get enough lawns to mow (she will mow on the days her father isn’t home so that he’ll never know) and she manages to convince Pete of her drive and commitment to learning how to play drums.
Pete sees something in Sam that he hasn’t in most students and swallowing his pride, he takes Sam to a music school where he still has a connection, and encourages the school to take Sam in to their next music recital. He’s sure this will show others of her skill at such a young age and open some doors for her to get into music school.
But at school, Sam has a hard time holder her temper and she hits someone with a drum mallet. The school principal wants to talk to Sam’s parents, but Sam erases the messages on the answering machine, hoping the principal will eventually let it go, but of course, instead it exacerbates the problem.
Author Mike Grosso clearly understands children at this middle school age. He writes in such a way that Sam’s actions and dialog feels so completely natural. Her wisdom, her eagerness, her hopes all reflect most junior high students I’ve known.
The idea of schools cutting the arts from curriculum is sadly a common occurrence around the country and Grosso very nicely shows us how this impacts the people who need it the most – the students. Especially those who can’t afford to take lessons or classes outside the public school system.
Grosso also touches on troubling home life for many students. He does this in a very direct manner, but with respect and without making it the focus of the book.
This was really a tremendous read. I have anywhere from five to a dozen active/open books on my various e-reading devices, but I was always wanting to read more in this book.
Looking for a good book? I Am Drums by Mike Grosso is a must-read for any middle-schooler frustrated with not getting the opportunities to grow in the areas that interest them. Read this book, then share it with a student.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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I am Drums
author: Mike Grosso
publisher: Clarion Books
hardcover, 256 pages
Ivy Mae Bloom’s goal is to find her ‘forever home.’ At thirteen (well, almost thirteen), Ivy wishes the magic of a place to settle on her and her mom so that they can stop the constant moving. Ivy’s mother is a fallen star who travels the globe to fix the magic that surrounds everything. Even magic needs repairing now and then.
But Ivy steals her mother’s supply of ‘wish jars’ and now the Blooms are stuck in Whistling Ridge, North Carolina. It’s not such a bad little town, Ivy decides, and hopes beyond everything that this can be her forever home.
There’s something going on in Whistling Ridge, though. Even Ivy can feel the magic draining away and her mother seems powerless to fix it. With some new friends and acquaintances, Ivy believes she might know what the problem is and how to solve it, but if the magic is restored, will her mother move them along again?
This book is incredibly poetic. Author Cindy Baldwin’s prose is lyrical and she makes it easy to be drawn in to the book. I didn’t pick up on the magic right away (a little more on that in a moment) and the subtlety of magic in a very real world added to the beauty of the story.
I received an advanced digital audio copy of this book. This is different from a regular audio book. In a regular audio book, a narrator reads the story with added inflections and pauses and sometimes different voices for the different characters. But this advance audio book uses a ‘synthetic voice.’ It’s a bit strange, listening to something that sounds real but emotionless, and it definitely took me out of the book early on, which is why I may have missed the early introduction of magic in the story.
The character of Ivy is really well developed. She’s strong (for her age), with just the right amount of youthful inexperience. She could easily become whiny, but she’s not, and she could easily be made almost super-heroic, but she is not.
Given that this particular audio did not really support the book, and yet I still found it easy to enjoy, I will look forward to picking up the physical book and/or the true audio edition.
Looking for a good book? Do your middle-grade/young adult readers a favor and put a copy of The Stars of Whistling Ridge by Cindy Baldwin in their hands.
I received a synthetic voice audio edition of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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The Stars of Whistling Ridge
author: Cindy Baldwin
publisher: Quill Tree Books
hardcover, 400 pages