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Drummer Hoff

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"DRUMMER HOFF" is a lively folk verse all about the building of a cannon. Brightly dressed in full uniform, each soldier brings a part for the remarkable machine.

32 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1967

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Barbara Emberley

14 books3 followers

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5 stars
980 (36%)
4 stars
681 (25%)
3 stars
687 (25%)
2 stars
255 (9%)
1 star
92 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 327 reviews
Profile Image for Calista.
3,792 reviews31.2k followers
March 17, 2019
This is adapted from a folk tale. It is a story for beginning children and up. This is a simple story about an army building a cannon told in repetitive verse like the 12 days of Christmas and rhyming.

The best part of the story is the amazing artwork. I think little of the story, accept the cute rhymes, but the artwork is fantastic. I love the energy in the soldiers and all the lines create energy. I give the artwork a 4 stars while the story only 3.

The nephew surprised me and he really got into this. He thought the cannon going off at the end was funny and he liked all the funny looking characters. He gave this 4 stars. The niece thought this was rather silly and she gave this 2 stars. We talked about the art, but she still didn’t think it was worth more than 2 stars. She said, “I would not recommend this, so I can’t give it more stars.”
Profile Image for Theo Logos.
588 reviews88 followers
June 26, 2022
Drummer Hoff was one of my first books. I saw it in a Scholastic book offer at school when I was six, and begged my parents to buy it for me. Like many little boys, I was enamored by soldiers, and would pour over the book again and again, entranced by the colorful European dress uniforms worn by the motley bunch of soldiers who were assembling, loading, and preparing to fire a cannon. Each one was distinctive, and I was particularly fond of Sergeant Chowder (who brought the powder), a gruff looking peg-legged fellow in a grenadiers hat, and Captain Bammer (who brought the rammer), a swashbuckling, eye-patch wearing chap. All of the illustrations were stunningly lined wood-cuts, brightly colored. I would try to draw soldiers who looked like those in the book, and learned all the words by heart.

Jump forward thirty years. My first child was born, and though I hadn't looked at the book in decades I found myself chanting the words to my baby as I rocked him to sleep - I still remembered them perfectly! I retrieved Drummer Hoff from my parent's attic, and it became a favorite of my boys. I was thrilled to pass this cherished piece of my childhood on to a new generation.

Worth noting is that Drummer Hoff hides a subtle anti-war message. When the cannon fires, it is a two page spread KAHBAHBLOOOM, all done in hellish red with some dark purple and blue behind it. When you turn the next page, all of the sharply dressed, parade ground soldiers are gone, and the abandoned cannon that was their focus has become a dilapidated ruin in an overgrown meadow full of birds and butterflies. As a child I could not clearly articulate the thoughts, but I remember pondering what happened to the soldiers — why had they left the cannon there? Had they been hurt when it was fired? It was my first influence to suggest that war might be something other than romance and adventure. Drummer Hoff is a fine, age appropriate way to begin to instill the values of peace in the hearts of little boys.

Among all of the many wonderful books written for small children, this was, is, and ever shall be my very favorite. It receives my highest recommendation.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
4,140 reviews
July 2, 2015
This is probably a 3 for my enjoyment level but I have to bump it up because it's so memorable.

This was my first time reading it as an adult and I was struck by the final illustration of Drummer Hoff; very powerful seeing the cannon covered in cobwebs and flowers, birds and butterflies. That said, I don't think I noticed it as a kid so it seems like a subtle message to me. It's based on a folk song so perhaps the Emberleys were adding their own views there at the end.

While this is not destined to be one of my favorite books, and wasn't a favorite when I was a kid, either, it is definitely one of those books that sticks in my mind because of the illustrations. Before I read it this time, I couldn't have told you what it was about. But if I saw the cover I would have known instantly that it's "Drummer Hoff" -- those bold woodcut illustrations feel really unique to me.
Profile Image for Paul  Hankins.
770 reviews281 followers
October 23, 2011
The 1968 Caldecott Award winner. I found this at a garage sale of a retiring educator a couple of years ago and this title has sat on a downstairs bookshelf until I decided to go back and read these award winners this weekend.

Delightful verse about the hierarchy of people who give orders until the eventual firing of the cannon by Drummer Hoff. Colorful woodcuts make up the illustrations that are a feast for the eyes.

This might work well in a writer workshop if the prompt involved many people in a process.
54 reviews1 follower
March 26, 2014
This book was about war. All of the members of the war were missing an arm, leg, or were wearing an eye patch. At the end of the book they blew themselves up because they stood in front of the cannon. At the end of the book nature took over. I liked this book but I feel that it would be confusing for a young reader to understand the message behind the book.
Profile Image for Jon Nakapalau.
4,755 reviews638 followers
October 27, 2016
Ever come across a book and remember that it was one of your favorites as a child? This book was in a used book store and it hit me...BOOM! Like a cannon ball of memory - taking me back to a time when my grandfather first read it to me.
10 reviews
October 17, 2016
This book is based off of an old folk verse. Told with vibrant illustrations, it tells the story of the construction of a cannon. Each soldier has something different to contribute, which intertwines a beautiful lesson of social-emotional learning, history, and poetry. The story starts off small and gradually builds to convey a bigger picture.

“General Border
Gave the order,
Major Scott
Brought the shot,
Captain Bammer
Brought the rammer,
Sergeant Chowder
Brought the powder,
Corporal Farrell
Brought the barrel,
Private Parriage
Brought the carriage,
But Drummer Hoff fired it off.”


I think this book would be perfect for a reading or writing workshop, because it takes various components and adds them to the existing story – an important element of writing in general. This idea is presented in a way that seems somewhat simplified as the reader must do most of the interpreting and thinking. Digging for a deeper meaning provides the audience to think more critically to develop a more in-depth understanding of the author’s message he is trying to convey. This text could be used for different purposes: to discuss poetic writing and other literary elements; as a mentor text for intertwining history into your writing; to learn about this period of history; or to convey the social-emotional type lesson that everyone has something unique to offer to an overall production… Everyone has a gift that is to be valued.

My favorite part of the story is the illustrations, as their bright colors and details make it even more memorable. The first time I read “Drummer Hoff,” I knew it’s poetic and historical writing style would be appreciated by all. After all, it did win a Caldecott Metal! I was reassured that younger audiences would also swoon when my fourth grade reading partner expressed his excitement after reading it. He was exposed to a new literary style and both of us were ecstatic about the new possibilities of his writing. In fact, we were so inspired that we immediately went to his writer’s journal to update one of his latest poems. It brings something new to the typical classroom read alouds, as it truly is unique. The illustrations, characters, writing style, and plot are unlike everything I have read before which is why I find it brilliant.

Profile Image for Lisa Brown.
2,299 reviews10 followers
June 1, 2010
A fun read aloud, perfect for babies, toddlers, and young children. Filled with repetion, my kids loved to help me say all the different parts as each person was added to the story, but their favorite part was the end when "Drummer Hoff fired it off" and the got to say "Kababloom!"
Profile Image for Nora.
52 reviews
December 3, 2015
Drummer Hoff is a book written in the style of a cumulative song. It starts with Drummer Hoff, and throughout the story seven others join him, all to build and fire a cannon. They build the cannon on a grassy field, and in the end it is overgrown by flowers and plants, and birds are perched on the canon. Drummer Hoff is illustrated in a colorful mosaic style, with ornate patterns drawn within every person and object. Pages with narrative are a stark contrast to those with the characters, as they are plain white, with only the grassy field at the very bottom of the page. The eye is drawn to the bright jewel toned illustrations, and once readers get the hang of the story song, they can pay more of their attention to the pictures. Once each character has been presented, for the rest of the book only their head is visible at the bottom page, bringing the attention to the new character introduced in that verse of the song, so to speak. When the cannon is finally fired, the entire page is drawn in red, the smoke from the blast, the grass, the cannon itself, and Drummer Hoff himself, against a brilliant blue background. This red is an angrier color, pairing appropriately with the firing of an explosive, and on the next page is peacefully overgrown by flowers and plants. With only the cumulative song as text, the pictures on the final pages are the epilogue to the firing of the cannon.

This book could be used in a classroom in a counting lesson. As characters are added to the story, the count gets higher, and students could count along with the book. It could also be used to make predictions. The teacher could read aloud, and students could predict what the next step in building will be.
Profile Image for Jacklyn.
31 reviews3 followers
January 26, 2016
Drummer Hoff is written by Barbara Emberley and illustrated by Ed Emberley. It is a short poem about troops of soldiers who will fire off cannon. The illustrations appear to me like woodcut printing because the lines look stiff and there are many geometrical shapes. The page where they fire the cannon leaves me a strong impression. The blast forms red swirls that sweep across to another page; the loud noise of blasting is printed in bold yellow capital letters; the soldier, the carriage, the land are covered in red and the background in cold blue and sharp lines. These two pages are the only two pages that illustration takes up the whole space. After that, it became peaceful again. The carriage is left on the field and plants are growing on top of it, but the soldiers are gone. Although I like this book a lot, I don’t think children who read this book can fully understand the message behind it unless someone explain it to them. Otherwise it just seems like happy soldiers who go onto the battlefield and nothing bad happens.
Profile Image for ☼Bookish pam in Virginia☼ .
1,148 reviews44 followers
July 27, 2016
Time Machine
5.0 out of 5 stars Drummer Hoff Hits a Home Run, April 29, 2005

I found the reviews of Drummer Hoff to be very interesting, particularly the parts about what this book meant to my fellow readers in their youth. My take is a little different however. As a mom with two young children (38 months and almost 5) I am constantly looking for books of all sorts to read to them. I particularly like books that my kids love enough to memorize on their own.

In this light, Drummer Hoff is a complete hit. The drawings are so intense and interesting that my son brings the book to me all the time... or did. Now that we all know it by heart we take turns reciting it as we play on the lawn.

And while it is true, as some have noted, that it does not have an obvious beginning, middle, and end, it does still tell a story. And this book serves its purpose the same way many of the old rhymes do. It teaches diction, vocabulary and memory skills: all of which are early reading aids.

This mom and dad give it 5 stars.
Profile Image for Abby.
282 reviews
August 7, 2013
I read a few reviews on goodreads, and a lot of people either don't like this book or think children won't like this book. I'm only 21 so I was a child and enjoyed this book in the 90s (which is not very long ago).

I loved this book as a child. The simplicity, the repetition, the color, all added to my enjoyment of it. I loved the funny names and the style of the drawings. The longer the sentence got the more I anticipated the pay-off of the canon firing. Turning the page to the firing of the canon was easily the best part.

Please don't judge this book too quickly. You can't assume that you'll know what a kid will like. First of all, kids are different and some may like it and some may not. Second, think about how long it's been since you were a kid. Adults think differently than kids and there is no substitute.

Happy Readings!
50 reviews
April 28, 2015
This story tells the progression of building a cannon. There are very few words as the steps are repeated and start from the beginning after each additional step is added. The illustrations are very detailed from their uniforms to the feathers on their hats. As the story retells the progression of the cannon the illustrations do as well. The line, shape and color all work together very well to create an order that represents the story well. I love the fact that the progression in the picture is built upon after each step. Great pictures! This book would make for a great lesson on the importance of detail in stories. It would be a great activity to have students read this book, and then write and illustrate their own story that has to do with the steps of a process. Students could even share their stories with other students to make sure their processes are complete and make sense!
9 reviews
September 10, 2015
As Drummer Hoff goes through the motions of rhyming word, it also shoes how these men of war are preparing a canon. One book character is missing a limb while another character is wearing an eye patch, it is what brings this story together as the main officer is who call commands to have his men shoot the canon. The book offers colors such as shades of red, which could recommend power, anger, passion, , energy and activity; shades of blue indication passiveness, serenity and a sense of detachment and a few yellows and greens, which indicates caution and maybe some sort of nature and calming that is associated with the theme. Based on recurring shapes, there are circles from the plants which means that there is comfort, protection and an endlessness throughout the story. Drummer Hoff is a great book to read through, as being a Caldecott Medal winner.
Profile Image for Chaitra.
3,231 reviews
August 13, 2017
The soldiers bring something or other to fire off a cannon. They all have a part to play. The rhyme is repetitive in a House that Jack Built fashion. But the real winner is that bright artwork made of woodcuts. The end page is particularly good according to me, because the canon, which has been made to explode, is now in ruins, with flowers and butterflies running through it. Very Ozymandias.

(Another book I didn't test on my son because I read it in the library just before returning it, but I'd like to).
Profile Image for Dianna.
1,855 reviews33 followers
June 6, 2019
2010: This story repeats without being annoying (it isn't too long) and demonstrates chain of events, as well as the workings of a cannon, which will always be interesting to little boys (and probably girls, too). The illustrations are to die for. Definitely a classic!

2013 update: My little girl loves this book even more than my little boy did. And I love the pictures so much.
Profile Image for Book Concierge.
2,709 reviews325 followers
February 18, 2017
This is a picture book for very young children, with repetitive rhymes that tell the story of a group of soldiers who build a cannon. Illustrator Ed Emberley won the Caldecott medal for his work. The vibrantly colored illustrations remind me of a psychedelic Beatles album cover!
Profile Image for Meltha.
945 reviews45 followers
September 5, 2018
Another Caldecott winner, but I kept wondering sort of why. The illustrations were colorful and vaguely psychedelic, almost looking a bit like stained glass windows, but the story, a rhyming cumulative one a la The House that Jack Built, at times didn't work very well. For example, Chowder brings the powder, and Harrel or Farrel or some similar name brings a barrel. The problem is the gun powder is already in a barrel, and the barrel actually referred to is the barrel of the cannon, which actually took me a while myself, so it would have to fly over children's heads completely. Eventually, Drummer Hoff sets off the cannon, and it appears everybody else is standing in front of it at the time and is blown to kingdom come, though that isn't made completely explicit. The final image is the cannon full of birds' nests, feeling rather "Where Have All the Flowers Gone." Again, this could well be a comment on the Vietnam War given the era of the book, but the concept itself hasn't aged particularly well.

ETA: Yep, still rather baffling.
Profile Image for Linda Lipko.
1,904 reviews42 followers
April 30, 2017
Luscious colors pop out in reds and oranges and greens and just about every color imaginable. This Caldecott winning book does not have the pull of the message as well as the images that leap and the detail that is incredible.

One lone Drummer named Hoff seems to build a cannon, until the story builds upon the fact that it took many to assist in the final project. This is a simple tale of fact needed for all to remember.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
614 reviews47 followers
February 18, 2015
The pictures were lovely...but I need a plot. A story of SOMETHING. Rhyming is fun, and learning happened - so the kids were happy. But I need MORE.
Profile Image for Kristi.
20 reviews
March 9, 2018
Drummer Hoff is spirited retelling of a folk verse by Barbara Emberley. The inside flap of the book indicates that it is illustrated by Ed Emberley using brightly colored wood cuts that reflect the energy and age of the story. It is likely that this style was chosen to complement the traditional folk style of the story. It was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1968 for these illustrations. Every wood cut is ornate and portrays each character in a wide variety of intricate patterns and vibrant colors. The cumulative song-like poem that accompanies the illustrations tell the story of a group of soldiers coming together to build a cannon that they eventually fire. However, the background of the illustrations and the accompanying lines of poem are very minimal and keep the attention on the characters and the cannon that is being built until the last few illustrations that portray the cannon being fired. These illustrations cover the entire page and use darker shades of reds,pinks, yellows, and purples over tangled swirling patterns to represent the explosion. The final illustration is unaccompanied by any words and shows the cannon being overgrown with flowers and vegetation and providing a home for a variety of creatures.
While I did not find the story to be very gripping, I believe that the book would be excellent for beginning readers due to the short rhyming text and ornate pictures that wonderfully capture what is going on in the story; not only through the actions they portray, but also through the colors that portray the changing mood and tone at the end of the book. In addition to this, the building aspect of the story as characters are added may be useful for helping children recognize sequencing and patterns.
20 reviews
December 7, 2018
_Drummer Hoff_ by Barbara Emberley in 1968. I enjoyed this book quite a bit, and although the words were simple and the story did not really have much of a meaning behind it, the illustrations were so colorful and eye-catching. To me, these colorful illustrations look like they may be woodcut and stamped onto the paper. The illustrations are full of lines going in different directions, and the outline of all of them is not exactly perfect, which is why I think that is the medium used. The flaps of the book say that this is a folk verse about building a cannon, making it's style folk. The front cover is very eye-catching, it shoes the Drummer Hoff next to the cannon, while the back cover is nothing but a picture of the Drummer Hoff. I would use this book with children starting in about 2nd grade and up because some of the words may be too big for younger children. The rhyme and repetition would make it enjoyable for younger children, and it would allow them to see words again that they may not have known or seen before. By adding pictures to each page every time a character is added, the end of the book has some very colorful illustrations. By using such vivid and bright colors, the readers eyes are sure to never get bored. Using this in a classroom to teach rhyme and repetition would be one way to use it with children, and it would also be a really fun read aloud because of those two elements. Overall, I had never read this book until now and I really enjoyed the folk verse as well as the colorful illustrations.
48 reviews1 follower
April 18, 2018
Drummer Hoff is a folk-verse tale about the different soldiers that bring parts to assemble a cannon. The illustrations in this book are some of the most dramatic and vibrant illustrations I have ever seen in a book. Drummer Hoff can be read purely based off the incredible illustrations. These illustrations span across two pages and with each turn of the page, new soldiers continually add pieces to the cannon until it is finally ready to be fired off. When Drummer Hoff fires the cannon at his military superiors, there is an intense spread of red and purple with a huge yellow lettering spelling out “KAHBAHBLOOOM”. Ed Emberley uses bright colors over woodcut lines which kept each component of the story uniform and the same throughout the story, until the ending. The story ends with only one illustration and no words, depicting the cannon with yellow flowers and colorful chirping birds encompassing it, which I felt very powerful. This leaves the question of; can peace only prevail through war?
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