Monday, January 2, 2017

Non-fiction Monday: Esquivel! Space-age Sound Artist by Susan Wood

Esquivel! Space-age Sound Artist by Susan Wood. Illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh. unpgd. Charlesbridge, September, 2016. 9781580896733. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publisher)

I just adore picture book biographies! What a fabulous way to learn about new and interesting people at any age. #nevertoooldforpicturebooks. While they are a great for the younger elementary set, they are even better for older elementary and middle school, especially if the biography is well-sourced. That picture book can be a springboard into a larger work. A delicious canapé that whets the appetite for the main course.

Juan Garcia Esquivel was born in Mexico and seemingly a born musician. Was it his immersion in music, growing up around the sounds of "whirling mariachi bands?" Or was he just born with a musical brain and curiosity? His parents had a player piano but Juan wanted to make his own music, so at the age of six, he figured out how to disable the roll and play the piano himself. From then on, he made his own music. He had no formal training. By age fourteen, he was earning money playing for a radio station. He heard music everywhere and "focused on how sounds could be arranged." Soon, he was experimenting with the new technology known as stereo sound. He eventually made his way to America.

Two paragraphs that vividly describe his music and artistry float on the recto of a double-page spread of paint splotches and onomatopoeia swirling all around the bespectacled composer. The energetic collages depict the funky fashions of the sixties, quaint technology that was then state-of-the-art and cool cars that never seem to go out of style. If this doesn't prompt readers to dash to the nearest computer to find Esquivel's music, nothing will. I looked to see if the book was available as an audiobook. That would be so much fun! Or, perhaps a cool Weston Woods video? Maybe after it collects an award or two come January.

An informative author's note follows the story. The illustrator's note describes his inspiration along with a picture of the ancient Mexican art that inspired his style. A page of resources directs interested readers to books, periodicals, websites and videos. A full page black and white photo of the exuberant composer concludes the volume.  

Alert your music teachers, art teachers and LA teachers when you add this to your collection. This is just the ticket to enliven the biography section.

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