Esquivel!: Space-Age Sound Artist by Susan Wood (review)
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Reviewed by
Wood, Susan Esquivel!: Space-Age Sound Artist; by Susan Wood; illus. by Duncan Tonatiuh. Charlesbridge, 2016 32p
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-58089-673-3 $17.95
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-60734-825-2 $17.95 R Gr. 2-5

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. An autodidact at the piano, Esquivel had landed a modest piano gig on a Mexico City radio station by age fourteen and led a radio orchestra by age seventeen. With a keen ear attuned to urban soundscapes, he played fast and loose with popular Mexican tunes, lacing them with a kind of instrumental take on vocal scat that made him a recording star in both Mexico and the United States. 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. That’s all well and good, but 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 (BCCB 10/15), but he infuses its formality with some freewheeling text and swirling motif design suggestive of Sean Qualls. The [End Page 102] Resources page tosses in a couple of quotation credits and adult print references but concentrates on websites of Esquivel interviews and YouTube performances virtually guaranteed to secure the late orchestra leader a fresh following. Let the downloads begin.

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