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Oct 5, 2020

TV News Reporter/Anchor Leticia Ordaz Writes a “Breezy” Children’s Book

“The Adventures of Mr. Macaw,” like the main character, is taking off

By Ed Goldman

I’ve always wondered why “Go fly a kite!” was considered a putdown, either in childhood or thereafter. To me, it sounded more like someone suggesting you do something whimsical, energetic and out in the fresh air. To recap, where some heard “Scram” I heard “Have a nice day.”

I get the impression that award-winning children’s book author Leticia Ordaz might agree with me. Her bilingual and charmingly illustrated hardback children’s book, “The Adventures of Mr. Macaw,” uses a child’s accidentally liberated bird-shaped kite as an innocent transmitter of friendship, cultural acceptance and poignancy. The scene-stealing illustrations, also award-winning, are by Yana Popova.

Author Leticia Ordaz

“I’ve always been into books and when my boys were little, I loved reading to them,” says Ordaz, a TV reporter/news anchor on Sacramento’s first-in-the-ratings KCRA-TV, an NBC affiliate owned by Hearst Television. “But their first language in our home was Spanish and it was such a challenge to find bi-cultural books to share.” 

So Ordaz, who was born in Mexico but came to the U.S. as a baby, decided to write her own book for Maxton, now nine years old, and Bronx, who’s five. She went one step farther, giving the protagonists in her runaway-kite saga the same names. She and the boy’s dad, Enrique Baeza, who’s in the field of criminal investigation, have been together 24 years and celebrated their 15-year wedding anniversary a few days after this interview.

Ordaz’s day job often begins in the gloom of 4 a.m. She’s that local-news rarity, having not only won three local Emmy nods but also, rarer still, remained at the same station for 17 years. Her on-set personality is sunny but serious, her in-the-field interviews focused and no-nonsense. Off the air, she’s chatty and deeply passionate about cultural education.

It’s become a cliché that as soon as many of us become parents, fall in love with our kids and get lured into their worlds of undiluted imagination (and unintentional narcissism), we decide we’re going to write our own children’s book. I did the same when my daughter was born, writing and illustrating a remarkably terrible book called “Splat the Cat” about the mishaps of a clumsy tabby—never dreaming I’d inherit a mischievous one, who’s been my closest companion for the past 13 of his 18 years). But I never sought out a publisher and am confident the outcome of the book would have been the same had I made contact with one

Book cover illustration by Yana Popova

Ordaz, on the other hand, had good luck with the established publishers she brought her book to. They liked it. But, she says, when they didn’t share her vision of publishing a book whose every page features narrative both in Spanish and English, she decided to form her own publishing firm, Cielito Lindo (Beautiful Sky) Books. She says she plans to continue bringing out bi-lingual children’s books—of her own, and possibly of others.

She also has an earlier children’s book, an autobiography: “That Girl on TV Could Be Me: The Journey of a Latina News Anchor,” illustrated by Juan Calle. In it, Ordaz recounts her own mold-breaking journey in broadcast journalism and explains how news is covered on television. Also bilingual, this book, along with “Mr. Macaw,” are available at Barnes & Noble and from Amazon. (If you’d like to buy an autographed copy, order at Ordaz’s Cielito website.)

Besides artfully casting her own kids in “The Adventures of Mr. Macaw,” Ordaz says the book is also autobiographical. The family had a macaw-shaped kite that, like the silent star of the book, was “lost in a tropical storm when we flew it in Cabo San Lucas.” But they also, just as in the book, got it back due to what Blanche DuBois calls “the kindness of strangers” in Tennessee Williams’s “A Streetcar Named Desire.” People found it, had seen her family playing and returned it. I should mention that replicas of the now-celebrity kite are also for sale,

I hope my giving away the book’s happy ending doesn’t qualify as a spoiler. If it does, you can just tell me to go fly a—well, you know.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).