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Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln
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Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  943 ratings  ·  192 reviews
The story of Teresa Carreño, a child prodigy who played piano for Abraham Lincoln.

As a little girl, Teresa Carreño loved to let her hands dance across the beautiful keys of the piano. If she felt sad, music cheered her up, and when she was happy, the piano helped her share that joy. Soon she was writing her own songs and performing in grand cathedrals. Then a revolution in
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published August 27th 2019 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
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Average rating 4.25  · 
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Teresa grew up in Venezuela playing the piano with her dad, a politician. War broke out there and they had to leave the country and came to NYC. (The picture of them on the boat in the ocean during a storm with an outline of a girl in the water and her hair was the turbulent waves was very cool.) She began playing with orchestra’s at age 10 and her name got around. In 1883, Abe Lincoln invited her to the White House where she played for the President in his red music room. This is all based on f ...more
Natalia Sylvester
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is so beautifully written & illustrated—the language leaps off the page as vibrantly as the illustrations, with a wonderful message of how courage, hope & kindness carry us far in difficult times. I love how the author explored the duality of light & darkness in life, the way they coexist and create music out of our joys & sorrows.
Dancing Hands..Wow...this was such an informative picture book. Honestly, before reading this book I had never heard of Teresa Carreno or that she played the piano for President Lincoln during the Civil War. I was amazed at how young and talented she was and how she had to escape war from her home country of Venezuela only to come to the United states to become immersed in our own civil war. I found everything about this book fascinating. My only criticism is the simplicity with which the Emanci ...more
Cheryl Gladfelter
I enjoyed the story and learning about Teresa Carreno, but the true star of this book is Rafael Lopez's illustrations. They are transcendentally beautiful and I notice something new every time I love at them. ...more
Ben Truong
Sep 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln is a children's picture book written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael Laopez. It is a biographical picture book of Teresa Carreño – a Venezuelan pianist.

Mid-September to Mid-October, at least in my part of the world is Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month, which I plan to read one children's book, particularly a biography, which pertains to the subject everyday this month. Therefore, I thought that this book would be
Feb 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a delight in recent years to learn about so many interesting people through picture book biographies; this is a prime example. I knew nothing of Teresa Carreno, and found the illustrations to be just perfect! No wonder Lopez won the Pura Belpre Award. As a matter of fact, this prompted me to go to his website; he has done a wonderful job with so many books!
Many of the inside pages are much more vibrant than the cover, which does convey the idea that Carreno played for Lincoln during the som
A gorgeous picture book biography
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“When Teresa was a little girl
in Venezuela, Mamá sang lullabies
while Papá showed Teresita how
to let her happy hands dance
across all the beautiful
dark and light keys
of a piano.”

Lopez’s astounding illustrations and Engle’s lyrical text make this book pure joy to read. Teresa Carreño was a masterful pianist at a young age who grew up in an era of turmoil – in her home country of Venezuela and in her adopted country of the United States (i.e., Civil War). Music soothed not only Carreño, but also
Sensitively written and colorfully illustrated biography of a homeless refugee who became a prodigy and concert pianist. She played not only for Lincoln but also for Liszt and Rossini. Venezuelans refer to her as the lioness of the piano.
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The message is beautiful, the illustrations are beautiful, and the blending of history, culture, and the arts is why I’ll read anything by this author. My music students will love this story!
The story of Teresa Carreño, a child prodigy who played piano for Abraham Lincoln.

As a little girl, Teresa Carreño loved to let her hands dance across the beautiful keys of the piano. If she felt sad, music cheered her up, and when she was happy, the piano helped her share that joy. Soon she was writing her own songs and performing in grand cathedrals. Then a revolution in Venezuela forced her family to flee to the United States. Teresa felt lonely in this unfamiliar place, where few of the peop
Ashley Fulkerson
I really enjoyed this book for a few reasons. The first being that I had no idea that such a young girl performed for Lincoln, I think that is very special. The second being that I loved the figurative language used throughout the whole book. It kept me engaged in the story and kept my mind on track. One of my favorite lines is near the end of the book and it says, "Music swirled, twirled, and soared on wings of sound." I like this line because it shows how powerful music is and the ability it h ...more
Beautiful picture book biography melds text and art into a polished piece. Lopez’s use of color and darkness captures the mix of feelings as the young Venezuelan refugee uses her music to help deal with the many highs and lows in her new life. Moods change as pages turn, all through his mixed media, flowing illustration.Engle’s text is lyrical at times and her descriptive language can soar. The story seems a little too pared down and Engle does a fair amount of imagining what Teresa is feeling a ...more
What a lovely book! Well deserves to win the Pura Belpre illustrator award! This adds to the library’s rather slight holdings in music so I’m very pleased by this! This book can be pulled out for Hispanic month and women’s history month. It can be added to any display on music or a general one on the arts. It can be used for gifted children’s displays since she was only 10 when she played for President Lincoln and his family. I’m sure some thought would bring other uses for this bright versatile ...more
May 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-book
This book is a Pura Belpré Award winner.
It tells the story of Teresa Carreño who had to leave Venezuela. She is later invited to play for President Lincoln! This book intrigued me to learn more about Teresa Carreño. It is a great book to use for Hispanic Heritage Month with any grade level. The illustrations are beautiful and demonstrate Teresita's feelings. The first person that I watched do the read-aloud had the book positioned oddly that it looked like he was reading it backwards and he kep
Jan 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Famous children, obscure Lincoln stories and music biography requests
Recommended to June by: Youth Media Award - Bura Belpre
About Teresa a child pianist prodigy, whose family fled to America to escape war. In 1863, when she was ten, she was invited to the White House to play for the Lincolns.

The story basically covers her first 10 years, but the Historical Note goes further stating how she only returned to Venezuela once because of her county-men's disapproval of her independent spirit that caused her to divorce 3 times before finding happiness with her fourth husband. Her renown as a composer, opera singer and one o
Mar 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Multiple award winner, Margarita Engle, has written a story about how child prodigy played the piano for President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. When a revolution drove her family from Venezuela to the US, the child, Teresa Carreno, had a hard time adjusting to a new life and language but her music gave her hope! When President Lincoln heard about her music, he invited her to play at the White House. Yet she wondered if she could bring comfort to the US leader during a time of war? Excep ...more
Cat Fithian
Young girl from Venezuela becomes great pianist in NYC, plays for Lincoln. True Story - Civil War, WW1 both referenced. Beautiful illustrations and descriptions of music.
Ben Chleboun
Oct 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: diverse-lit
This is another enchanting, hopeful, and beautiful children's book by Margarita Engle. I love how Engle has taken it upon herself to provide children today with heroes from our Latin American past. The historical setting of her books shine light on past stories that are frankly not taught in American schools. Speaking as a teacher of history in a secondary school, her books leave me curious and investigating the world's of per-revolutionary Cuba or, in this case, the Federal War in Venezuela tha ...more
Chloe Kessler
Feb 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
After moving from Venezuela to America, Teresa becomes a famous pianist and even plays at the White House.
This story emphasizes Teresa’s Venezuelan heritage. The book addresses the language barrier Teresa faces when moving to a new country, as well as Venezuela’s revolution and the American Civil War. Latinx culture is portrayed positively in this story through Teresa’s connection to her culture and music.
Mikayla C
Apr 30, 2020 rated it liked it
"By the time she was six, she could write her own songs, and at seven she performed in the peaceful chapel of a magnificent cathedral, playing hymns that shimmered like hummingbirds" (Engle).

Usually, when an author uses metaphors and similes it tends to be a poem., but this author did a very nice job of using figurative language to add to the emotions of the characters. Also, using figurative language adds to the imagery. Even though this book is a children's book, it worth the read to show that
Feb 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
Teresa learned to play the piano and compose at an early age. When her family had to escape war torn Venezuela, they traveled to the United States where the Civil War was in full swing. She performed many concerts in the U.S. and President Lincoln invited her to play at the White House. Children ages 4 - 9 will enjoy Teresa's story of hard work and determination in the picture book Dancing Hands by Margarita Engle. ...more
Julie Baker
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: multicultural
Dancing Hands:
Text to text
Teresa had a dream in life. She followed it by taking the time to nurture and train her skills so it would match her level of love and interest. Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed created the same picture of love and dedication about Mae becoming an astronaut. Both of the biographies were written for the primary age level and showed how to overcome obstacles by turning nerves into positive energy to keep moving toward goals. Life will always have dark and light, the key
Feb 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Dancing Hands tells the tale of a young pianist whose skill on the piano helped comfort a president in the middle of a war. Teresa Carreno grew up in a household of music. She started learning to play the piano at a young age. But a war in her homeland of Venezuela, forced Teresa and her family to flee to the United States. Unfortunately, this did not free her from conflict as the United States was in the middle of a civil war of its own at the time. Still, her music helped her find a home in he ...more
Teresa Carreno emigrated from Venezuela during the mid 1800s to New York City. Coming from a musical family, she showed talent early on, and when she was not even ten, she composed music, and performed at concert halls. As a result, in 1863 Abraham Lincoln invited her to play at the White House for him and his family. Unfortunately, the piano offered to her there was not in tune, but when Lincoln asked her to play "Listen to the Mockingbird" his personal favorite, she was able to pull through.

Feb 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Child prodigy Teresa Carreño is exiled from her home country of Venezuela and moves to New York with her parents. She becomes a star and tours the world, including a stop at the White House to play for Lincoln & family right after Willie Lincoln's death. She started composing pieces at the age of 6! I listened to a couple of her works and they were great. We need to hear more about women in history like Carrenño!

Good for older kid storytimes.
LOVED the amazing illustrations of Rafael Lopez.
The story is interesting, with supporting back matter. However, to me the story of young Teresa's life was a little too abridged in the effort to take her to the moment of playing for Lincoln, which didn't come across to me as the apex of the book/her life. It seemed a bit random - clearly, that was an interesting moment, but also clearly, Teresa had many interesting moments in her young life.
I would like to try it with kids and see how they do w
Oct 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Teresa Carreno was a Venezuelan pianist who fled to the United States as a child when there was a revolution in her home country. But arriving in the U.S., there was a war here too, the Civil War was raging. Teresa used music to communicate, practicing her piano with a variety of musicians who came to her home. She played piano in enormous theaters as a child. Then, she was invited to play at the White House by President Abraham Lincoln. Teresa believed in the power of music, but how could it ov ...more
Two incredible creators on one project? Yes, please--and thank you!

Let’s just gaze upon that cover shall we?! What follows inside the pages will surely be a feast for the eyes and ears. And they are. The poets in word and pictures tell the story of a courageous child prodigy traversing a time and place full of beauty at first, and later, at war. Neither storyteller shrinks back from the dark and it only serves the light Teresa brings to the landscapes/lives she encounters.

I love the kindnesses e
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A lot of people have playlists of music they prefer. Some will have multiple playlists; one for exercise, one for creativity, one for concentration or relaxation. Different music speaks to different people at different times. Conversely a certain song or musician can connect and has connected with thousands of people during human history.

In the United States of America, for four years (and truthfully for some time before and after), this nation was torn by the Civil War from April 12, 1861 to Ap
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Margarita Engle is a Cuban-American poet, novelist, and journalist whose work has been published in many countries. She lives with her husband in northern California.

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