New Book: Drummer Boy of John John Celebrates the Joy of Carnival


This new children’s book “takes readers on a delightful journey to the village of John John in Trinidad. Drummer Boy of John John, released in October from multicultural children’s book publisher Lee & Low Books, was inspired by the early life of Winston “Spree” Simon, a pioneer in the development of the steel drum. The book uses sun-drenched paintings and musical text to celebrate the beauty of Caribbean culture and music.

Description: Winston, a boy in Trinidad, wishes that he could play in a band and win free rotis, the delicious island specialty prepared by the Roti King and presented to the best performers at Carnival.

In the weeks before Carnival, the people of the Caribbean island are busy sewing costumes, and bands are busy rehearsing with their gourds, bamboo sticks, bottles-and-spoons and drums. Winston hears the sounds that his mango pit makes when he chucks it into a junkyard. Inspired, he tries out different cans and tins, listening carefully to their different notes. More experimentation follows, and soon, he is performing for his neighbors. Friends join him to form a band made up of “pots and pans, tins and cans in a rainbow of colors.” The sounds are winningly irresistible, and Winston and his fellow musicians soon enjoy their “folded pancakes filled with chicken and secret herbs and spices.” Greenwood’s story is based on the childhood of Winston Simon, the 20th-century musician credited with the invention of the steel drum. The text is filled with a cacophony of musical words that are fun and challenging to read aloud. Lessac’s gouache paintings pulsate with sun-drenched island colors and often resemble a folk-art quilt.

Mark Greenwood (author) and Frané Lessac (illustrator) were both inspired by their own time spent in the Caribbean. Lessac lived on the island of Monserrat, and Greenwood traveled extensively throughout the Caribbean as well as spending many years as a session drummer in London. “Being a musician, I was always interested in writing something about the musical culture of the Caribbean,” Greenwood said. “Our planet has an extraordinary musical diversity.”

For original review, see

For Kirkus Review, see

For purchasing information, see

One thought on “New Book: Drummer Boy of John John Celebrates the Joy of Carnival

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s