Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

I Am Drums

Rate this book
Sam knows she wants to be a drummer. But she doesn’t know how to afford a drum kit, or why budget cuts end her school’s music program, or why her parents argue so much, or even how to explain her dream to other people.

But drums sound all the time in Sam’s head, and she’d do just about anything to play them out loud—even lie to her family if she has to. Will the cost of chasing her dream be too high?

256 pages, Hardcover

First published September 6, 2016

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Mike Grosso

2 books42 followers
Mike Grosso is a musician and a fourth-grade teacher who always keeps a guitar in his classroom. His father gave him his first lesson, and his mom taught him how to keep a steady rhythm. Mike continues to write and record music at his home in Oak Park, Illinois, where he lives with his wife, son, and a drum set he plays much too loud. I AM DRUMS is his first novel.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
163 (47%)
4 stars
120 (34%)
3 stars
49 (14%)
2 stars
12 (3%)
1 star
0 (0%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 94 reviews
Profile Image for Kathleen Glasgow.
Author 12 books6,051 followers
April 27, 2016
This book really blew me away. Highly recommended for kids and their parents, as Sam's relationship with her parents is well-detailed, poignant, and honest. Sam is one of the best characters I've read this year--headstrong, passionate, creative, flawed, and funny. Girls and boys alike will be charmed by this unlikely heroine. At heart, this is a book about discovering yourself and your dreams--it's also got a lot to say about the importance of mentors and teachers in a young child's life, which can often be a tipping point for how well they do in the future. Loved, loved this book.
Profile Image for Kassie.
313 reviews2 followers
December 14, 2020
How do I give more stars? That has to be an option somewhere. This book is about 20 years late... It's the story I needed to read when I was twelve years old in 7th grade percussion and drumming got too hard for me so I quit. I decided to go the "easy" route and sing soprano in the choir. I'm sure there were other reasons for me quitting. Being a girl and getting teased about drumming didn't help; middle grade is tough, y'all! (Read my drumming story on my blog: kassielamro.weebly.com)

I haven't cried in a book so hard since Mathew died in Anne of Green Gables. And **spoiler alert** no one died in this book! Drumming is part of my soul. It always has. But don't worry about me. I started taking lessons in college (why not?) and plan on being Wanda, the 84-year old drummer in the book.

I'm so glad this book is in the world. It needs to be! Even if you're not a drummer, you should read the book. It's about having a passion and going for it despite all the obstacles, working hard for your dreams and learning to communicate with those we love but who don't always see our ideas eye-to-eye. It's about finding your rhythm and listening to your heart.

Read it!
Profile Image for Victoria Coe.
Author 11 books98 followers
August 28, 2016
I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I AM DRUMS by Mike Grosso is a rocking middle grade story! I loved cheering for Sam as she struggled to express herself, both in her relationships and through her music. She is such an endearing and relatable character! Young readers are going to give her a standing ovation! Highly recommend!
Profile Image for Melanie.
Author 6 books205 followers
September 16, 2016
Sam is a girl with a dream: she wants to be a drummer, but she's facing an uphill battle--budget cuts at school and an even tighter budget at home. I really enjoyed Sam's resiliency, and how she went after her dream in spite of tough circumstances. I think that's something kids need to see. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Susan.
596 reviews78 followers
July 10, 2016
Sam's insatiable need to become an incredible drummer can't be stopped. Except for the fact that she doesn't own any drums, her struggling family has no money for lessons, and word is, she might just be the weakest link in symphonic band's percussion section at the moment. Well...even John Bonham had to start somewhere. Luckily anyone with enough perseverance to teach themselves drumming on a desk and a stack of books may just be hard-headed enough to find a window of opportunity, IF that same hard headedness doesn't sabotage things at school and home enough to derail everything before she has a chance.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read to me for many reasons. I loved that music in this book was talked about with a genuine and believable passion and wasn't just a plot gimmick or about someone wanting to be famous. It was also thoroughly refreshing and empowering to have a story about a female protagonist in middle school that was really purely about her goal and her finding her identity without getting tied up with boyfriends or crushes or friend drama. Although her friendships play some roles in the book and are tested in different ways it feels more nuanced and interesting than you usually see. I liked how not everything had to be explained to death--that there was scope for speculation with the friendships with how they began and how they evolved to be where they are at this point. I also liked how Grosso steered away from some of the trope scenes/images that you might have expected from this kind of underdog sort of story. Sam's obstacles are real, even just having a book really deal honestly with the financial side that kids and their families have to face even with school band was important, I think--and it's not an easy or even a purely happy journey for her all the way, but it's also not Whiplash. As a reader, you at least have an inkling that even if not everything might work out, no one is going to end up shattered or damaged at the end. There's an underlying momentum of optimism and hope, but even so, Grosso doesn't tie up everything in a neat little package either. For all that optimism, not all problems can't be drummed away or magicked away with the power of music--and I like that this is acknowledged.

Such a great accompaniment (and possibly an antidote?) to all the stories about boys in bands who want to make it, and possibly because Grosso is also a musician himself, it's nicely informed with some nice musical references that will hopefully drive some less musically experienced readers to Google at least, or even better(be still my librarian heart) an actual library.
Profile Image for Jenn Bishop.
Author 5 books220 followers
January 28, 2016
There are some books that do a perfect job of feeling both super current but also somehow timeless. "I Am Drums" is one of those books, both an older kindred spirit to the Ramona books with how well it handles a challenging economy and the strain that puts on a family, and something that I could share with a kid right now who would see herself in Sam.

Sam's an every kid. Her grades aren't perfect. She's not the best musician in her school band. And yeah, she plunked one of her classmates with a mallet one day in school. She's "real." She's also passionate, super passionate really, about drumming. She hears music in her head, and she makes do with what she's got -- creating her own homemade drum kit in her bedroom out of books and newspapers, since her parents can't afford to buy her a real one. She's resourceful and kind, even if she doesn't always make the right choices. Gosh, I just love Sam!

Her passion for drums and her willingness to do everything in her power to be able to practice and get better at them is so inspiring. I doubt many of the target readers will have seen the movie "Whiplash" (since it's rated R), but it was hard not to think of it as I read this book. Her drum teacher is much gentler than the one in the movie, but I nevertheless love how he pushed her. How he put her music education into her hands.

Grosso's love for music comes through so strongly in this book. I can see so many band kids falling in love with this story. But more than just a band book, this is a book about following your passion, whatever it may be. Who cares if it isn't lucrative? In truth, how many adults are out there in dead-end jobs who might honestly be better off financially, emotionally, or spiritually if they had followed their hearts.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
Author 3 books95 followers
June 14, 2016
I loved this book! A really wonderful story that captures the difficulties of middle school - shifting friendships and allegiances - and the joy when you are doing what you are meant to do. For Sam, that's playing the drums. I think a lot of middle school students will find themselves in Sam's story. I love how author Mike Grosso showed Sam's passion for the drums and for music as well as the difficulties she faced in pursuing something she loved.

Absolutely recommended!
Profile Image for Patrick.
385 reviews
July 2, 2016
Read this fun, unique, and interesting story is pretty much one setting! Loved it and loved the character of Sam. I want to drum! Look for book in September...
Profile Image for Amy.
844 reviews44 followers
September 8, 2016
Summary: This book was adorable. Not profound, not entirely well-written, just simple, sincere, and adorable. Students who like linear plots, minor family issues, slightly rebellious kids, and are thinking literally about a text will enjoy this story of a girl whose heart beats drums. They'll cheer for her on her quest to improve and to prove the naysayers wrong.

Review: Things aren't looking so hot for Sam. First, she gets in trouble for beating a classmate with marimba mallets, even though he started it. Second, her family is facing financial difficulties. Third, her school is cutting its music program. What's a drummer to do?

Sam's subsequent decisions to get a part-time job mowing lawns in order to pay for lessons and to keep deleting voicemails her principal is leaving on the house phone reveal that she is plucky and determined but not always of sound judgement.

While the most literal thread of this story is about Sam's pursuit to become a better drummer, sensitive, experienced, and world-aware readers will access another level of this story: that of being a lower-middle-class kid in an upper-middle-class community. The differences that might be subtle to some readers appear stark to Sam: some kids in her school can afford music academies, new instruments, and private lessons. Sam can't. Some parents don't need to work weekends. Sam's parents do. I work with readers who experience situations like these all the time, and I think that book will give voice to feelings they might not be able to express -- both the from the lower-middle-class kids whose parents aren't shuttling them around to lots of expensive activities and from the upper-middle-class kids who might not realize that not all classmates are able to benefit from these activities.

Excited to hand this one off to readers to see what they think.

(ARC from American Library Association)
Profile Image for Brooks Benjamin.
Author 1 book152 followers
August 30, 2016
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

There are about a million different drum-related quips I could begin this review with. And I almost picked one. But the more I thought about it, the less I wanted to start like that. Beginning that way felt a little cliched and this book deserves so much better.

I Am Drums is about Sam, a girl with a dream of becoming a real drummer. The problem is, her parents can't afford to buy her a drum set and the school's jazz band is getting the ax thanks to budget cuts. So Sam does what any precocious middle schooler would do and takes it upon herself to find a way to get what she wants.

On the outside, this book screams fun and high energy and tons of humor. And, sure, there is plenty of that. But after a little ways in you realize that there's a great deal more to this book than middle-school drama and clever drum references. This book explores some very intense themes of friendships, family relationships, trust, honesty, and fear. Mike threads these throughout the story in such a brilliant way so that heaviness is always paired with moments of levity, giving the depth the weight it needs to be felt, but never allowing it to be so cumbersome that it leaches the enjoyment from what we're reading. The ending in particular was very pleasantly surprising. There was no bright shiny bow completely wrapping up Sam's story, but we're given enough so that when we do close the book, we don't feel cheated or dissatisfied at all.

I can't wait to recommend this book to readers. It's one that touches on themes I think we can all relate to: the desire to be great at what we love doing, to be brave enough to try something new, and to finally be heard.
Profile Image for Kerry Cerra.
Author 3 books67 followers
April 13, 2015
I read an arc of this book as part of the Fearless Fifteeners author community.

I am so happy this book has found a new home after Egmont decided to close its US doors. I AM DRUMS is a wonderful story full of heart and truth. Sam is a determined character who is not afraid to go after what she wants. Though she makes mistakes in how she initially goes about this, she remains true to her age, and for that, I find her admirable. I'm especially glad that the author didn't tidy up the ending into a happy, typical outcome. Instead, he tells an honest story that so many kids will be able to relate to. I love this book and can't wait to purchase my own copy when it finally comes out.
Profile Image for Wendy MacKnight.
Author 3 books83 followers
April 17, 2016
Oh My Gosh - I loved this book so much! Sam Morris is a girl with a mission: to take the drum beats from her head and translate them into playing a real live drum. The only problem is the rest of the world seems to be conspiring against her: her stressed-out parents, her classmates, her own anger. When she finally gets a chance to take drum lessons from super teacher Pete Taylor, she'll do whatever it takes to learn. As a non-musician, I always wondered what was in the heads of musicians. Now I know. Grosso does an amazing job of writing about music, obsession, family frailty and middle school challenges in this amazing debut novel. A must read!
Profile Image for Alison.
Author 3 books33 followers
May 18, 2015
I love this book, mainly because of the characters, the heart, and the main character's perseverance even when it's not easy, even when she makes questionable choices, even when she's not a "natural." I love the message that passion for something (in this case the drums, obviously) is enough reason to keep going. And I so appreciate the character flaws and the sometimes questionable choices, because really, that's life.
Profile Image for Jill Diamond.
Author 2 books31 followers
June 15, 2016
Bravo for I AM DRUMS, a strong character-driven story that manages to be both relatable and unique. The characters - including Sam - are very human and believable, and Sam's passion for drums is conveyed incredibly well by the author, making the reader feel like they share it with her. This book even taught me quite a bit about drums and music but only in the sense that it came up organically in the plot - never in a teachy way by the author. Great middle grade read! Encore, please!
Profile Image for The Library Lady.
3,591 reviews523 followers
December 19, 2018
Okay, a side note. Why do so many reviews of kids' fiction like this book here use the words "cute" or "adorable," especially when it's not about cute l'il fairies?

This book isn't cute. It's a pretty typical kid-has-a-dream, kid-has-family-problems, kid-realizes-dream. But it doesn't go for easy solutions to everything. Sam has parents who clearly have a failing marriage, and while dad is working on his work situation and his anger issues, there's no happy ending. Sam DOES realize her drum dream, but not after straying down some blind turns, and it's all believable. And that's what makes this book stand out--her voice is utterly real, and there are no one dimensional characters here.

But it's not "cute." Or "adorable." Please find a dictionary, folks. And a thesaurus.
Profile Image for Jennifer Fenn.
Author 2 books39 followers
June 28, 2016
Sam, the protagonist of "I Am Drums," hears drum beats in her head. She loves the drums, and aspires to be an amazing drummer. Will Sam be able to overcome family tensions, money woes and an under-funded school music program to realize her dreams?

I loved Sam! It's so refreshing to see this type of female protagonist, especially for middle-schoolers! She's passionate, she's kinda tomboy-ish but still has other female friends and she's not caught up in boy/social media drama. LOVE!

Pete, Sam's drum teacher, is another great character. He's a bit of a task-master, but Grosso writes him as the type of coach or mentor you wish every kid had: someone who can recognize budding talent and push kids to achieve their best.

I also really appreciated a realistic, contemporary story that seemed totally plausible but also hooked me completely. That's trickier than it sounds! The story is highly relate-able. I found myself recalling times when I'd made slip-ups similar to when Sam deletes a phone message from her school's principal to avoid getting in to trouble with her parents.

As the parent of a daughter, this is the type of book I'd love her to read, particularly when she is middle-school age. The story demonstrates the value of perseverance without preaching and counters gender stereotypes. It's a completely enjoyable story recommended for MG readers and adults alike!
Profile Image for Scott Fillner.
266 reviews35 followers
November 15, 2016
I really enjoyed this book! I think it would reach a lot of readers who have a passion for something that they may not believe their parents or others will accept or agree with.

I believe that there are many opportunities for upper elementary and middle school students to connect with strong emotion and challenging decision making situations in this wonderful story. There is a family dynamic issue in this novel that students may connect with as well. Just many places to stop and communicate with others and find value in speaking to those strong emotions and not hold them inside, but find those yo trust and communicate what you are thinking and feeling.

I also loved drummers and drumming growing up so it also connected me with some of my favorites from history.

I highly recommend checking this novel out!
Profile Image for Gail Nall.
Author 7 books102 followers
March 11, 2015
There are so many things I love about this book -- Sam herself (a girl who loves drums!!), the realistic family, Sam's awkward friendships, Pete the drum teacher, and on and on. I especially enjoyed the scenes where Sam finally gets to learn to play drums. I knew nothing about drums (aside from having dated a drummer in high school who liked to pound out rhythm on my car dash), and this book made me kinda wish for my own drum set! Sam is strong character who isn't afraid to say what she thinks or do exactly what she wants. This is just such a great book, and I'm excited to hear that's found a new home now that Egmont is gone. Highly recommended!!
Profile Image for Lisa.
510 reviews4 followers
April 8, 2015
Sam is a rhythmic person, and that doesn't always work well when you have to sit for hours in school. The constant rhythm that she hears in her head interferes with her communication skills, too. Well, it's that or the fact that she is 12. This story about Sam learning to find her own way is a good read, and I will purchase it for my school.
Profile Image for Erin.
Author 7 books1,039 followers
June 28, 2016
I received an ARC for an honest review.
Let's just say this book is so witty and funny and at the same time, poignant that my children fought over it. They love to see the ARCs that come to the house and this was a middle grade favorite. It's evident in Grosso's writing that he has a background in music. His writing was seamless and laced with humor. I loved every word.
Profile Image for Anita McDivitt Barrios.
949 reviews11 followers
December 14, 2020
And I thought violins were loud!

Sam hears drum music in her head, all the time, but she's got no idea how to get it out in a way that it'll sound the same way it does in her head.

She's in band, and when the two other drummers tell her she's the worst of all, instead of being pushed down she gathers the pluck to ask the only drum teacher in town for lessons.

Problem is, you have to pay for lessons, and her dad's out of work and has a nasty temper. Her mother's already pawned her wedding ring. She schemes to use the family lawnmower to mow lawns and make the requisite $15 a week for lessons (that's really cheap for music lessons, by the way!). As long as she can get home before her dad does, he'll never suspect a thing.

And for the first time, with her drum teacher, the rhythms start to come out -- right. She's found an ally, and he wants her to stretch her abilities and perform at a recital.

Unfortunately, all that can go wrong does. The lawnmower breaks down. Her dad finds out what she's been doing and, totally lacking any understanding, he pulls her from lessons.

I won't spoil how it ends. But in Sam, you'll recognize every child who's had music in their heads, and never known how to get it out.

Visit my blog for more great middle grade book recommendations, free teaching materials and fiction writing tips: https://amb.mystrikingly.com/
Profile Image for Cindy.
136 reviews
June 13, 2018
Amazing! A very real book. It doesn't sugar-coat things, which I appreciated. I can't wait to recommend it to my sixth graders!

Note: As an adult, I found the beginning a bit slow. However, keep on reading. It gets so much better. No matter your age, you'll love this book.
Profile Image for Christine Edwards.
294 reviews4 followers
August 15, 2017
So good. So accurate. And such a commentary on the importance of advocacy for music in schools. Very well done!
Profile Image for Eli.
270 reviews25 followers
September 8, 2015
I was so sad when Egmont USA shut down, but I’m glad that this book found a new pub home. For those of you wondering, this book will be published in September of 2016, not 2015, but I’ve been waiting on this post for awhile, so I decided to publish it now.

I AM DRUMS, for the record, is worth the wait. I loved this book, more than I’ve ever loved a book about band. I AM DRUMS is heartwarming and realistic. I would recommend it for boys and girls, and for anyone who loves the arts–especially kids who want to grow up to be artists.

I think one of my favorite things about this book was Sam. She really makes the story, even if I didn’t like her because of what happened in the ending. Sam is smart and passionate. She’s a great heroine and role model for middle-grade kids to read about, and I loved her personality. She’s not pushy or arrogant or tough, but she’s just… Sam. She works hard to achieve her goals and doesn’t stop pushing until she’s achieved them. There’s a lot to be learned from that mindset. It’s been awhile since I read about a character like this in middle-grade, and I loved getting to know her.

Another one of my favorite things about I AM DRUMS was Pete, Sam’s drum teacher. The relationship between him and Sam was realistic and funny, and the two of them together were perfect.

There were so many other things about this book that I really appreciated. The writing, the band descriptions, the fire, all of it was great. The ending wasn’t what I thought it would be, but I was okay with it in the end. Overall, I thought that I AM DRUMS was really entertaining. Definitely a book that I will be recommending. 4.5 stars.
Profile Image for S.A. Larsen.
Author 8 books141 followers
July 1, 2016
Sam has a great voice - authentic and flows with ease. Basically, she breaths off the page. Like most kids her age (heck, myself included), she questions much about herself and her world, constantly exploring to find her place. Sam experiences loads of inner conflict, which just adds to the way others misunderstand her, her mannerisms, her loves, her hopes, and her dreams. She's a thinker, which I love! The author does a great job showing and exploring the stereotypes of this age by peers and even adults, and the effects.

The element that Sam wants something and is willing to work hard to get it is a great plus for this story. Granted, she might - I said might because I don't want to feed you any spoilers ;) - go about achieving her goal in a few less desirable ways than she should have. But those are all learning opportunities for both Sam and the reader. The longer she works the more she sees value in reaching a goal in her own power. Lastly, the adult role models' speeches, choices, and intimate conversations with Sam and others are lifelike. Some are supportive, while others leave Sam feeling deserted. Like I said - life. And, of course, there's tons of musical references! Very, very cool...
Profile Image for Robin Yardi.
Author 3 books89 followers
May 5, 2016
Sam wishes she had a headphone jack installed in her scull. Maybe then her friends and parents would understand how she feels when she can’t come up with the right words to say. Like when she gets in trouble for whacking Danny, the most full of himself kid in the middle school band, with a Marimba mallet, if they could just plug in they would know how it feels to be told that no way can girls be good drummers.

They’d hear how that feels, just as clearly as Sam hears the rhythmic beat of slamming doors and scratching pencils and scraping school chairs.


When her teachers ask her if she has anything going on at home, they could plug in and hear that weird high pitched hiss when the music isn’t playing.

How can I pay for drum lessons on my own?
Why is Dad always so mad now?
Where is Mom’s ring?

In Mike Grosso’s book those questions get answered in the way they are answered in real life, the hard way, the half way, the only way. I AM DRUMS lets you plug into the head of a girl like Sam and hear the beat in her head, the beat of her heart, and the beat of her drums.
Profile Image for Janet.
Author 7 books84 followers
February 23, 2016
I seriously loved this book. It wasn't what I expected, but I had so much sympathy for Sam.

Sam (Samantha) wants nothing more than to play the drums. But when no one will take her seriously, and to top things off, the music program at school is cancelled, she has no choice but to take things into her own hands. And though she makes a lot of very poor decisions (and I love that the author doesn't just let her off the hook for that), I really, really appreciated all the hard work that she put in to reach a dream that no one believed she was capable of reaching but herself. She wasn't afraid of hard work. And she believed in herself, despite what anyone else said about her. The bullies at school. Her friends. Her own parents.

This book is for all you dreamers out there who want something, but worry you can never reach it. (And I'm guessing that includes a large number of us). And the happy news is that you're wrong. You can. It just takes lots and lots (and lots) of work.

(I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review).

Profile Image for Cynthia Reeg.
Author 11 books5 followers
September 8, 2016
I AM DRUMS opens with a melon-crunching ta-da from drum enthusiast Sam, when she whallops loud-mouth Danny over the head with a marimba mallet. It’s not easy being a girl who lives and breathes drums in middle school, especially when her stressed parents aren’t supporting her. After she’s told by a band friend that she’s really not any good, Sam decides to risk even more trouble. She “borrows” her family lawnmower to earn extra income to pay for private drum lessons with the neighbor drum guru, Pete, without asking her parents. Under his tutilege, Sam progresses at a fast pace, even as her homelife disintergrates and her school misdemenors finally catch up with her. Just as she’s on the brink of something big, she’s suddenly facing a life without drums. Without courage and fortitude, Sam doesn’t stand a chance of continuing to hear the music.
The author does an outstanding job of creating a believable middle school environment and characters. Sam is an mc who is easy to root for. IAD is touching contemporary read for Grades 5-7.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 94 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.