Kirkus Gives Esquivel! Space-Age Sound Artist Thumbs-Up


First Esquivel! review's in—thumbs-up from Kirkus!! Hooray!! (And many thanks, Kirkus!)

Wood and Tonatiuh combine to tell the story of a musician and composer kids have likely never heard of.

At 6, Juan García Esquivel figured out how to disable the paper roll in his family’s player piano, leaving him free to experiment and learn how to play the instrument himself. This spirit of experimentation never left Juan, who went on to become a pioneer in a quirky, innovative style of lounge music popular in the 1950s and ’60s. Esquivel!, as he became known, combined Latin rhythms, jazz, human voices, and unusual instruments in order to create unique musical textures and effects. During his career, Juan became popular in both Mexico and the United States, and he wrote many songs for TV shows and movies. The narrative presents the biographical facts of Juan’s life in an engaging and accessible manner. Young readers who have never before heard of this musician may find their curiosity piqued. However, it is Tonatiuh’s illustrations that truly spark the imagination. Tonatiuh employs his signature style of Mixtec codex–influenced design, combines it with playful tributes to the fashion and style of the 1960s, sprinkles in text blocks of onomatopoeia that seem to vibrate on the page, and fills in the empty areas with a watery mix of purples and blues that perfectly complements the spacey style expressed in the music.

A lively introduction to a somewhat obscure and profoundly innovative musical figure. (author’s note, illustrator’s note, resources) (Picture book/biography. 6-9)

© Susan Wood 2022