Dancing Hands

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

Author: Margarita Engle Illustrated by Rafael Lopez


Age range: 4-8

Dancing Hands tells of Teresa Carreno a world renowned pianist who as a girl played for President Lincoln. The setting of the story is a time of war and discord in her native Venezuela and in the United States during the Civil War. With this bleak time Illustrator Rafael Lopez paints an austere backdrop of the strife that occurs within the two countries, yet the images change to charming and delightful when a young Teresa sits down to make music on her piano. We gather through Engle that Teresa learnt to play piano at a young age, and she acquitted the knowledge to play gentle and “powerful songs that roared like prowling jaguars, beside towering waterfalls in a mysterious green jungle.” Teresa’s success within the United States and abroad merited her with an invitation from President Lincoln to play at the White House at a dark time for the Lincoln family after the loss of their son. Teresa’s music “her dancing hands” had brought solace to the family and it gave her courage to share her talent with the rest of the world.

A Bookish Decree: A astonishing melody of words, music, and art

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