Drummer Boy of John John
By Mark Greenwood
Illustrated by Frané Lessac
Carnival is coming, and the villagers of John John, Trinidad, are getting ready to jump up and celebrate with music, dancing, and a parade. Best of all, the Roti King has promised free rotis—tasty fried pancakes filled with chicken, herbs, and spices—for the best band in the parade.
Young Winston dreams of feasting on those delicious rotis. But there’s a problem: he’s not in a band! Pondering his predicament as he wanders through the village junkyard, Winston makes a curious musical discovery that may be just the ticket to realizing his dream. With ingenuity and the help of his friends, Winston takes on the Carnival bands, drumming his way to victory—and to the Roti King’s prized treat.
Musical text and sun-drenched paintings joyously transport readers to the Caribbean, and to this exuberant story inspired by the early life of Winston “Spree” Simon, a pioneer in the development of the steel drum.
For additional connections and exploration of themes, pair these field trip and activity ideas with Drummer Boy of John John.
Check out activities and discussion questions to teach about and celebrate drums.
About the Creators
is the author of numerous children’s books published in both the United States and his native Australia, several of which were created in collaboration with his wife, illustrator Frané Lessac. Greenwood is also an accomplished drummer. His interest in world music and his frequent travels to the Caribbean led him to this story of a drummer boy based on the life of musician Winston “Spree” Simon. Greenwood and Lessac live in Fremantle, West Australia. Visit his website at markgreenwood.com.au.
has illustrated more than thirty-five books for young readers, several of which she has also written. Born in New Jersey, Lessac later lived on the island of Montserrat. Her time there inspired her to create many stories with Caribbean settings and themes. Working on Drummer Boy of John John gave Lessac an opportunity to visit the Caribbean again, to research her illustrations. She currently lives in Fremantle, West Australia, with her author husband. Visit her website at franelessac.com.
About This Title
Commended Lists - Américas Book Award
Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs
Best Children's Books of the Year
Bank Street College of Education
Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC)
Interest Level:Grades K - 5
Reading Level:Grades 2 - 3
Music, Holidays/Traditions, History, Food, Dance, Cultural diversity, African/African American Interest, People In Motion, Realistic Fiction, Self Control/Self Regulation, Nonfiction