True tales and tidbits from the writer’s life...
Though some people might find this hard to believe, this story is a true one. In 1948 Elmo Heter and his colleagues really did transport seventy-six beavers to the Idaho wilderness by using boxes strapped to parachutes. Young readers and grown-ups alike are going to enjoy this true tale, which has a wonderful ending.
Many thanks, TTLG!
Many, many thanks to fellow kidlit author James Preller (the Jigsaw Jones and Scary Tales series, The Courage Test, The Fall, Bystander, Six Innings, and more) for the fun “5 Questions” interview—great queries about Esquivel! and other stuff that had me digging deep for answers!
Just learned that Esquivel! Space-Age Sound Artist, with illustrations by Duncan Tonatiuh, is a Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year (Biography and Memoir, ages 9-12), joining a list of outstanding titles from authors and illustrators I so admire! Honored and thankful to be in their company.
Who knew? Today’s International Beaver Day! Suggestion for adding to your celebration—my new picture book, The Skydiving Beavers: A True Tale!
It’s the amazing story of a daring experiment just after World War II, when an Idaho wildlife conservation team relocated via airdrop—yep, parachutes!—seventy-six live beavers. One beaver, playfully named Geronimo, endured countless practice drops, seeming to enjoy the skydives, and led the way as all the rodents parachuted into their new home. Readers and wildlife enthusiasts of all ages will enjoy Geronimo’s true tale, as well as the luminous illustrations of the Idaho wilderness by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen.
You can learn more about the book and holiday, plus find kid-friendly directions to make an adorable beaver craft from a thread spool, at Celebrate Picture Books. Be sure to check it out!
And happy, happy #BeaverDay!
Not sure how I missed it, but just learned that Esquivel! Space-Age Sound Artist was named one of School Library Journal’s Top Ten Latinx Books for children! The list includes amazing titles by the likes of Meg Medina, Yuyi Morales, Javaka Steptoe, and Francisco Stork—wow!!
[Esquivel! Space-Age Sound Artist] features musician, composer, and bandleader Juan García Esquivel (1918–2002), who removed the paper roll in his family’s player piano when he was a child so that he could make his own music. At 14, he worked as a paid pianist for radio shows, and at 17, he was an orchestra leader in Mexico City. Later, he created music from his New York City studio, experimenting with tempos, dynamics, and chords. Tonatiuh’s distinctive drawings, with collage textures and photographic elements, aptly capture Esquivel’s jazzy style, as do an appended author’s note, resource listing, and photograph.
So honored and grateful!
Exciting news! Woke up this morning to learn that Esquivel! Space-Age Sound Artist was named a Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book, thanks to Duncan Tonatiuh’s incredible artwork. Part of the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards—which also include the Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Newbery, and Printz awards—the Belpré award is presented to Latino/Latina writers and illustrators whose work "best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth."
From the Belpré webpage: "Duncan Tonatiuh creates a sense of sound and movement through energetic, textured collage illustrations that celebrate the life of innovative Mexican musician and composer Juan García Esquivel. Incorporating funky fonts and far-out fashions, Tonatiuh’s unique artistic style harkens back to indigenous codex art and lends cultural authenticity to this pulsating picture-book biography.”
Heartiest congratulations and thank yous to the extraordinarily talented Duncan—who also won a second Belpré Honor for his own The Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanoes (Abrams)—and our risk-taking publisher, Charlesbridge! And heartfelt thanks also to the Belpré committee and the American Library Association, which named Esquivel! an ALA Notable Children’s Book, for this amazing honor! Muchas gracias!
(Photo above by Ed Spicer, who was at the ALA Youth Media Awards in Atlanta, and whose Facebook post was how I first found out the exciting news!)
Author Susan Wood’s voice is distinct, strong, and lyrical throughout the book, allowing the reader to fully connect with Esquivel as both a person and musician. The reader is able to imagine what the music sounds like as the biography unfolds because of the strong literary quality of the text. Sound and music equal life to Esquivel, and the book delivers this message solidly throughout, like a clear distinct trumpet blaring or the call of a saxophone melody heard in Esquivel’s music.
Many thanks, reviewer Elizabeth Brown—I’m so grateful!
Some super-fun news!! From Publishers Weekly:
So excited about Ross MacDonald's amazing sketches for American Gothic, my picture-book bio of artist Grant Wood (Abrams, Fall 2017)! Especially in love with the spread in which Wood, paintbrush upraised as he surveys his beloved Iowa countryside, looks just like an American superhero. Can't wait to see the finished art! Check out Ross's other beautiful work… Ross rocks!
BCCB: “As Wood and Tonatiuh Demonstrate in This Picture-Book Biography, Being Part of Juan Garcia Esquivel Fandom Could Be Insanely Cool"
Here’s a taste:
A kid’s got to be careful in admitting a taste for grandparents’ music. Mick Jagger is acceptable, and Aretha Franklin’s not too embarrassing—and as Wood and Tonatiuh demonstrate in this picture-book biography, being part of Juan Garcia Esquivel fandom could be insanely cool…. Wood describes not only the quirkiness of his instrumentation but also how Esquivel arrived on the scene just in time to take advantage of new recording techniques and stereophonic sound separation, and how he was able to make a home in a range of sonic media, from Las Vegas stage shows, to television and movies, and of course, vinyl…. For kids who haven’t heard Esquivel, they’ll need more incentive, and Wood brings it. Her closing note focuses on the 1990s resurgence of interest in Esquivel’s recordings, which segues happily into the current rediscovery of the pleasures of vinyl. Tonatiuh reprises the Maya-influenced style audiences may recognize from Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras, but he infuses its formality with some freewheeling text and swirling motif design suggestive of Sean Qualls. The Resources page...concentrates on websites of Esquivel interviews and YouTube performances virtually guaranteed to secure the late orchestra leader a fresh following. Let the downloads begin.
Reviewer Elizabeth Bush totally gets Esquivel's music, and exactly why this book was written about him—zu-zu-POW!!!