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Review of Esquivel!: Space-Age Sound Artist

Esquivel!: Space-Age Sound ArtistEsquivel!: Space-Age Sound Artist
by Susan Wood; illus. by Duncan Tonatiuh
Primary, Intermediate    Charlesbridge    32 pp.
9/16    978-1-58089-673-3    $17.95
e-book ed.  978-1-60734-825-2    $9.99

Growing up in Mexico, Juan Garcia Esquivel got an earful of mariachi, but he wanted to create his own sound. Self-taught and persistent, he was playing piano at a radio station at fourteen and leading an orchestra for a radio comedy show at seventeen. His sound was so infectious that word traveled to the United States; a record company invited him to New York, which led to international success. Esquivel’s rewardingly strange instrumentals and his innovations in stereo sound would come to define mid-twentieth-century lounge music. There’s not much personal information here — one must turn to the author’s note to learn that Esquivel died in 2002 — but the story of his professional rise is told with pep and a keen awareness of how to best explain Esquivel’s skills to young readers (“When the radio comedian needed music for a skit about, say, a stout man walking his tiny poodle down a busy city street, Juan had to imagine what that might sound like”). Illustrator Tonatiuh (The Princess and the Warrior, rev. 9/16), once again working within the tradition of the fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Mixtec codex, takes a fittingly offbeat approach to portraying the very modern Esquivel, whose music, as Wood puts it, “sounded like a crazy rocket ride zigzagging through outer space.” Appended with source notes and lists of assorted resources.

From the November/December 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Nell Beram

Nell Beram is coauthor of the young adult biography Yoko Ono: Collector of Skies (Amulet/Abrams), which made the 2014 Amelia Bloomer Project list and YALSA’s 2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound list.

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