Written and illustrated by Estelí Meza
Orchard Books, 2021, 36 pp
Conejo’s house was blown away by a gust of wind during a stormy fall, so Conejo embarks on a journey to find his house. Lobo Lobito gives Conejo a ride over hills and across valleys, but they cannot find the house. Perezoso helps Conejo look for his house over trees and leaves with no luck. Buhíta also helps, but cannot find the house, either. After these attempts, Conejo, although grateful for his friends, “sat with sadness for some time.” When the rain stops, Conejo feels the breeze coming from a different direction and in that new direction, he finds his way home–a home that looks different, yet is filled with the stories, memories, love, and friendship of those who accompanied him through his journey.
Estelí Meza explains in the Author’s Note that this book was inspired by two natural disasters taking place in September of 2017: Hurricane María, which struck Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands and a strong earthquake that hit Mexico City. Meza’s note reflects on “the feeling of longing for home” as a universal experience that may or may not involve a physical relocation, but certainly implies an emotional journey. For example, Conejo walks readers through his emotions as he copes with sadness, hopelessness, loneliness, and the feeling of loss. Conejo is not alone, though, and his friends are helpful in unique ways. Meza’s story is about an outer journey as much as it is about an inner journey, where Conejo must also explore and redefine the meaning of home for and by himself.
Finding Home can encourage conversations about journeys in general (forced vs voluntary, internal vs external), and journeys to find home after a natural disaster, during a divorce, after losing a loved one, or while arriving to a new place. This story can also encourage dialogue around the importance of having a support system–a community of diverse individuals who care about its members’ mental health. Most importantly, Finding Home can provide spaces to explore the meaning of connecting with self, listening to one’s inner voice, and finding oneself in order to find home. As part of this inner or spiritual journey, Meza and Conejo invite readers to view quiet time with oneself as essential toward finding the way home.
When asked about her creative process, Meza explains that Finding Home started with a pencil, as she drew Conejo with a sad face, “My process is very particular because first I develop the whole visual part” (Schuit, 2021, para. 6). She explored with a range of materials, including India ink, acrylic, and colored pencils. After each character went through various transformations, Meza played with the backgrounds and the creation of the sketches. She scanned each sketch and used Photoshop to add color. Then, she printed the scans on cotton paper, applied additional layers of colored pencils, and inserted collages to highlight certain elements like the little red bird accompanying Conejo throughout the story.
Finding Home can be paired with other books stressing the emotional and physical journey of finding home after a storm. One example is A Flood of Kindness by Texas author Ellen Leventhal and illustrator Blythe Russo (2021). This story follows Charlotte and her family as they are forced to evacuate their home due to an overbank flooding of the river. A second pairing could be A Place to Stay: A Shelter Story (2019), also illustrated by Estelí Meza and written by Erin Gunti. This story describes a mother and daughter moving into a shelter. The reason behind their move is not addressed, which can give readers the opportunity to consider literal and/or metaphorical storms.
Estelí Meza is a Mexican author and illustrator who was awarded A la Orilla del Viento in 2018, the prestigious picturebook award in Mexico. Meza has authored and illustrated over ten books. Finding Home, also available in Spanish as Buscando un hogar, is her U.S. author-illustrator picturebook debut. Visit Meza’s official website at estelimeza.com for further information on her work.
Schuit, M. (2021). Let’s talk illustrators #167: Estelí Meza. Let’s Talk Picture Books. http://www.letstalkpicturebooks.com/search?q=Meza
María V. Acevedo-Aquino, Texas A&M-San Antonio
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WOW Review, Volume XIV, Issue 3 by Worlds of Words is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Based on work at https://wowlit.org/on-line-publications/review/xiv-3/6
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