The Fastest Drummer: Clap Your Hands for Viola Smith! By Dean Robbins, Susanna Chapman (Illustrator) Cover Image

The Fastest Drummer: Clap Your Hands for Viola Smith! (Hardcover)

By Dean Robbins, Susanna Chapman (Illustrator)
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Clap your hands for Viola Smith—the pioneering female drummer at the heart of this bright and rhythmic biography, who rat-tat-tat-bang-crash-clink-boomed for nearly a century.

Five girls played together in the Smith Sisters Orchestra: Irene on trombone, Erma on vibraphone, Edwina on trumpet, Mildred on violin, and Lila on saxophone. But what of the littlest sister? When Viola’s time came, almost every instrument was taken . . . except one. When she first sat behind a drum kit, she lost the beat, made a terrible racket, and had more fun than she’d ever had before. Viola took to the road with her family, learned from the greats, formed her own band in the face of discrimination and ridicule, mastered twelve- and seventeen-piece drum kits, and played so fast she left no room for doubt: women could not only keep the beat—they could beat the odds. At one hundred years of age, Viola was still slamming her snare and socking her cymbals. Dean Robbins’s affectionate portrait of one of the few female professional drummers of the early twentieth century includes an endnote with resources for discovering other female musicians. Susanna Chapman’s swirling illustrations capture the joy and energy of Viola’s stage presence while introducing young readers to the essential art form of jazz.

About the Author

Dean Robbins is the author of ¡Mambo Mucho Mambo! The Dance That Crossed Color Lines, illustrated by Eric Velasquez. He is also the author of Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing, illustrated by Lucy Knisley; Miss Paul and the President: The Creative Campaign for Women’s Right to Vote, illustrated by Nancy Zhang; and Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko, as well as a jazz trumpet player, a jazz critic, and a jazz festival organizer. Dean Robbins lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

Susanna Chapman is an illustrator, muralist, and designer. Her books include Ada and the Galaxies by Alan Lightman and Olga Pastuchiv and Elizabeth Warren’s Big, Bold Plans by Laurie Ann Thompson. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

Praise For…

Chapman’s upbeat illustrations create movement, sound, and emotion constantly swirling around “the fastest girl drummer in the world.” With a decidedly mid-century feel, the art reverberates with Smith’s active enthusiasm, with ripples from cymbals, starbursts from the bass drum, and twirling lines that trace the paths of her perpetually in-motion mallets. Robbins and Chapman collectively convey the vivacity and joy of this exceptional musician, and back matter further describes Smith’s advocacy for women in music.
—The Horn Book (starred review)

Pulsing with energy, this lively book shines a much-deserved spotlight on an artist who became renowned playing an instrument most commonly associated with men. Appropriately, onomatopoeic words representing the sounds of drum crashes cavort playfully throughout the eye-popping watercolor, gouache, cut-paper, and digital illustrations. Bang the drums—loudly—for this arresting account of a gifted virtuoso.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

With endpapers of all the sticks and brushes one can use with a drum, this book opens right up to a promise that something fun and loud is about to happen. . . . As a biography, this captures the verve and brio of Smith’s love for her art, delivering the facts with a rat-a-tat pace that parallels the life Robbins is covering. The pages are great fun; Chapman’s expressive linework gives Smith’s face an elasticity that always lets readers know what she’s up to.
—School Library Journal

This upbeat account of exuberant and innovative drummer Viola Smith is a lively newcomer to journalist and award-winning picture-book author Robbins’ noteworthy collection of biographies of women pursuing big dreams with passion and persistence. . . . As dynamic as Viola’s drumming, Chapman’s art vibrates with bright colors in retro palettes, with inventive compositions pulsating across the page and energetic hand-drawn words to amp up the rhythm. . . . An engaging perspective on a vibrant life that inspires a reader to find her own unique beat.

Legendary jazz musician Viola Smith (1912–2020) gets a much-deserved spotlight in Robbins’s ringing tribute. . . . Chapman’s retro-style multimedia artwork snaps with vibrant color that captures the volume of Smith’s music, and confetti and emanata celebrate the energy of her beats. Highlighting Smith’s collaborative instincts, this profile offers a resounding reason to “clap your hands for Viola Smith!”
—Publishers Weekly

The subject is entertaining and the tone inviting, two major draws for a picture book biography, and the appeal is all the more helped by the energetic, cheerful art. There’s not a still scene to be found in the watercolor and gouache illustrations, with swirly ribbons of music moving through riots of color accompanied by flashing stars of beats and bangs.
—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

What a thrilling way to tell the story of a thrilling woman! The pages come alive, bursting with Viola Smith’s energy. Kudos to Dean Robbins and Susanna Chapman for this vibrant collaboration, which tells the story of a powerful musician who fell in love with the drums and led the charge for all female musicians to follow.
—Mindy Abovitz Monk, publisher of Tom Tom, the magazine for female drummers, and director of Hit Like a Girl, the international contest for female drummers

Famous men dominate the history of jazz. But it is often unknown women who play it, like the drummer Viola Smith, who should be far better known today than she is. This book about that wonderful drummer tells a compelling story, about the power of women and the power of the music they make.
—Simon Adams of Jazz Journal

I’m excited that kids will get to know my great aunt Viola Smith through The Fastest Drummer. This bold, vibrant book evokes her talent as a musician and her courage in pursuing her dream to become one of the first professional female drummers. It will inspire young readers to pursue their own dreams, whatever they happen to be.
—Janet Furtak, grandniece of Viola Smith

The Fastest Drummer tells a marvelous story with captivating illustrations, and it well represents my aunt Viola Smith. As the first recognized American professional female drummer, she was an inspiration to musicians around the world, and the book will be similarly inspiring for young readers.
—Dennis Bartash, nephew of Viola Smith

Product Details
ISBN: 9781536224863
ISBN-10: 1536224863
Publisher: Candlewick
Publication Date: March 5th, 2024
Pages: 40
Language: English