Cover of book shows Esquivel floating above piano keyboards.“Rinty-Tin-Tin!”




This joyous picture book biography of quirky composer Esquivel rejoices in the weird sounds he incorporated into his music. It tells the story of his childhood in Mexico, his move to the United States, and his experiments with using new sounds in new ways in his music.

The book is full of delightful onomatopoeia. Sometimes the sound words appear within the illustrations. Esquivel surrounded by onomatopoeia.But onomatopoeia also shows up in the text itself:

When Juan Garcia Esquivel was a small boy he lived with his family in Tampico, Mexico, where whirling mariachi bands let out joyful yells as they stamped and strummed.

Or later:

But the singers didn’t sing words–they sang sounds. They’d sing “Zu-zu-zu!” and “Doo!” and “Pow!”

The sounds make you feel like you’re hearing his weird and crazy music as you read.

Duncan Tonatiuh’s illustrations draw a lush world that reminds me of lounge music and the 1960s.

In the Author’s Note in the back matter, Susan Wood talks about how she got interested in Esquivel and described some of the process of her research. In the Illustrator’s Note, Tonatiuh compares his own process to Esquivel’s: Esquivel took familiar folk forms and changed them into new things. Similarly, Tonatiuh uses the imagery of ancient Mexican art and then transforms it to our 21st Century world. He includes a reproduction of one of those ancient pieces of art to show you exactly what he means.

Esquivel: Space Age Sound Artist, by Susan Wood, illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh. Charlesbridge: 2016.

Children with book around a globe

I participate every Wednesday in the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.