THE LOVELY & TALENTED ESTELI MEZA on natural disasters, homelessness, rebuilding; how children need to process feelings & be supported by loving, caring friends/adults + her artisic process


By Leslie Lindsay 

Kind words, good cheer, and yet…Conejo is sad, restless, and just wants to find ‘home’ in this illustrated children’s picture book.

Finding Home_Cover

~WRITERS INTERVIEWING WRITERS|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~

CHILDREN’S LITERATURE 

Kind words, good cheer, and yet…Conejo is sad, restless, and just wants to find ‘home’ in this illustrated children’s picture book.

Children’s author-illustrators are my heart. I think it’s because as a child reader, this is what shaped me, made me want to write. Here, in FINDING HOME (forthcoming from Scholastic, Jan 5 2021), Esteli Meza poetically and lyrically tells the story of Conejo, a little rabbit whose home blows away in fall storms. Off he goes seeking a new home. At each turn, he is met with a group of kind, caring friends–all forest animals–who offer insight and distraction…maybe they have a picnic or reminisce, play music, have a cup of tea. All of this is lovely and wonderful, but Conejo is not satisfied. Still, no home.

Eventually, the story ends with Conejo in a new home, one which he has filled with recent memories of kindness and compassion, a photo, a book, lovely gifts from his friends who helped him along his journey.

FINDING HOME was inspired by the author-illustrator’s personal experience of losing
her Mexico City home during the 2017 earthquake, but also Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, ravaging homes and tearing families apart. The need–and the feeling–for a home is universal. It’s part of the immigrant experience, and displacement, too–as a result of natural disaster, but also, perhaps personal and familial disaster as well. And maybe not even disaster at all, but great for children who have moved to a new home, school, city, state, or country.

Here, we find that we might all be on a search for self-awareness, a journey of going inward, to finding our strengths and weaknesses, our passions. It’s about courage during adversity.

As a children’s picture book, I don’t think children will exactly grasp this concept,
though depending on their ages and insight, various questions can be posed to get them thinking about what a home really means. Here, too, children are exposed to (a few) Spanish words.

STORY SUMMARY:

When Conejo’s house blows away in a storm, his friends and neighbors take turns helping him look for it. Though they do not find his house, they each send him on his way with good cheer and small gifts. Conejo is grateful for their support, but still finds himself sitting with sadness for some time. When the rain clears, Conejo finds the courage to rebuild. He fills his new home with the memories, love, and support he collected from his friends along the way.

cheerful asian children having breakfast
Photo by Alex Green on Pexels.com

Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Esteli Meza to the author interview series:

Leslie Lindsay:

Esteli, I am so grateful to have the opportunity to chat. I usually ask about inspiration first—but I understand you were inspired to write FINDING HOME after the loss of your Mexico City home during the 2017 earthquake and also Hurricane Maria, which ravaged Puerto Rico around the same time. Did you start with the narrative, or the accompanying art?

Esteli Meza:

No, luckily I didn´t lose my home, but many people did. I lived the earthquake and it was very scary. A couple of  blocks away from my home, buildings fell down. Those were horrible times.

I live in Mexico City, it is a seismic area and we are used to it, but the 2017 earthquake was very intense. I remember that a couple of days before I watched on the news what was happening in Puerto Rico and I was impressed by the pictures, and shortly after the earthquake occurred in Mexico. I felt very fragile before the force of nature.

The strangest thing is that on that very morning the whole city practiced an earthquake drill because 35 years before, in 1985, another devastating earthquake occurred on that very date. Every year we do so, the seismic alert goes off (it is a loudspeaker system that is set throughout the city, when it is activated it allows people to find a safe place or to leave the buildings before the earthquake starts). That morning everyone participated in the drill and hours later, the earthquake occurred on the same day. It was a horrible coincidence!

Those were very complicated days and I was reflecting about loss. That’s where my inspiration was born. In the book I talk about the loss of a home, but there are many types of losses.

I started this book with the art. I always start by drawing. When I started drawing, the first thing that came out was a sad rabbit, and then the idea that this rabbit was sad because he had lost his home came to me. I developed all the graphics and then the words. The text is the hardest part of my process. Choosing the right words to match with the drawing is a great challenge.

rippling water of river on autumn day
Photo by Marta Wave on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Like you, I find houses and homes—the idea of permanence—alluring. I think there’s a universal desire to ‘put down roots.’ Can you talk about that, please?

Esteli Meza:

I believe that we all need a place of ours, where we feel protected, comfortable, confident. A place where we can relate to the environment and make it our own, and just like a tree: to take root and grow. Conejo is searching for his home. And of course, he wants to find his place so he can grow.

Leslie Lindsay:

I love how Conejo is searching, seeking for comfort and respite, and also friendship. He struggles. So many times in children’s literature, characters don’t. I like how Conejo ‘sits with his feelings.’ Can you talk about why this is important—for both adults and children?

Esteli Meza:

It is important for children and adults to be able to name what happens to them because it is all part of life. Sometimes we don’t want to talk about feelings that are uncomfortable (sadness, anger), but when you can name and express them, you can have a better understanding of yourself and move on. I love the idea that sometimes we need to sit with these feelings and explore them, and then move on. Conejo fights and has the fortune of being surrounded by friends who make him company and support him. 

close up of teenage girl
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Do you think FINDING HOME is ultimately about mindfulness?

Esteli Meza:

I had not seen it that way, but they share some aspects because in the end, through literature you get know yourself, as it happens with meditation. Something that fascinates me about books is that each reader can have a different interpretation and ultimately it enriches the story.

Leslie Lindsay:

I love how you end the author’s note with these words: “You are loved. You are strong. When you are ready, you will find your way.” Oh, my heart! Can you expand on this a bit?

Esteli Meza:

I think we all need words of encouragement and to know that we are capable of dealing with problems. It is important for me that the readers think of the book as a friend, with whom they will feel accompanied in good and not so good times. Conejo goes out looking for his house, but on that journey he lives some adventures and finds important things about his life that he was not looking for, such as great friends who cheer him up.

person walking in road
Photo by Marcin Jozwiak on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Esteli, this has been wonderful. Thank you for taking the time. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten? Next projects, what you’re looking forward to in 2021? Anything else?

Esteli Meza:

Thank you very much. I loved your questions, they are really deep. I had a great time. A couple of details about the story is that the names of the characters are the names of the animals in Spanish, Conejo (Rabbit), Perezoso (Sloth), Buhíta (Little Owl) and Lobo Lobito (Wolf Little Wolf). The flower that Perezoso gives to Conejo is a dahlia, it is the national flower of Mexico. The story is universal but I wanted to put this little detail from my country.

There will be a bilingual English-Spanish version of the book. What I wish the most for 2021 is for the pandemic to end, that vaccines can work and that we can embrace each other again. About new projects, I am already thinking of a new book, a new story and I hope to share it with you soon.

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Artistic image of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Find me on Instagram @leslielindsay1 #bookstagrammer #alwayswithabook.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT FINDING HOME, TO CONNECT WITH ESTELI MEZA VIA SOCIAL MEDIA, or to PURCHASE A COPY OF FINDING HOME, PLEASE VISIT:

ORDER LINKS: 

~BOOK CONCIERGE~

I was reminded of A HOME FOR A BUNNY by Margaret Wise Brown meets
WINNIE THE POOH
 and perhaps THE ADVENTURES OF FROG AND TOAD.

 ~2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA now available~

apraxiacover-01 (1)

Estelí Meza (by Estelí Meza)ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Estelí Meza was born in Mexico City. She studied  Design and Visual Communication  in FAD and a Master Degree in Visual Arts at UNAM in Mexico. In 2018, she was awarded  A la Orilla del Viento “Picture Book” Contest Award sponsored by Fondo de Cultura Económica with the book El Príncipe Valiente tiene miedo. In 2013, Estelí was awarded the FILIJ XVIII “Picture Book”  International Award for her book Angustia. In 2017 she received an Honorific Mention in Sharjah´s Illustration Catalog (United Arab Emirates) and in 2016 she received an Honorific Mention in the National Poster Contest “Invitemos a Leer” in Mexico. She has published books in Mexico, Spain, the United Arab Emirates and the United States. Currently she works for different publishers and magazines.

IMG_1175ABOUT YOUR HOST: 

Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012) and former Mayo Clinic child/adolescent psychiatric R.N. She is at work on a memoir, about growing up with a mentally ill interior decorator mother and her devolve into psychosis. Leslie’s writing & prose poetry has been published in Pithead ChapelCommon Ground ReviewCleaver Magazine (craft and CNF), The Awakenings Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ruminate’s The WakingBrave Voices Literary MagazineManifest-StationCoffin Bell Journal, and others. Her cover art was featured on Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, other photography in Another Chicago Magazine (ACM) and Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal; CNF in Semicolon Literary Magazine; the 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA will be available late this summer. Leslie has been awarded one of the top 1% reviewers on GoodReads and recognized by Jane Friedman as one of the most influential book reviewers. Since 2013, Leslie has interviewed over 700 bestselling and debut authors on her author interview series. Follow her bookstagram posts @leslielindsay1.

 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA now available.apraxiacover-01 (1)

on submssion/Catalyst Literary Management MODEL HOME: Motherhood, Madness & Memory

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LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#childrensliterature #home #social #kidslit #storm #earthquake #friends #forestfriends #Mexico #feelings #emotions #support #homelessness #mentalhealth #depression 

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[Cover and author image courtesy of Scholastic and used with permission. Artistic image of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Find me on Instagram @leslielindsay1 #bookstagrammer #alwayswithabook]

 

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