Gloria Estefan had owned Noelle, a brown-and-white bulldog, for only a day when a veterinarian told her the new pet was just too sick to live. But despite her vet’s suggestion that she put the puppy to sleep, Estefan felt rescuing her friend was in order.
“I said, ‘Try to save her. This dog’s a survivor,”’ said Estefan.
Estefan knows a little about survival herself. In 1990, she overcame long odds to restart her singing career after a bus crash left her paralyzed and wondering if she would ever walk again.
Now the five-time Grammy winner is again talking about overcoming obstacles to kids — but instead of putting the focus on herself, Noelle has become the focal point. “Noelle’s Treasure Tale” is the second installment in a series of colorful children’s books featuring the curious Noelle and her adventures. The book teaches about history and the animal world while imparting life lessons.
“There’s a bit of metaphysics in there for the kids,” she said in a recent Associated Press interview. “There are very subtle morals and ideas that get into the spiritual realm.”
The first book in the series, “The Magically Mysterious Adventures of Noelle the Bulldog,” was a best-seller among children’s books. The books are available in English and Spanish.
“There was no ghosting here — I wrote every word,” she said. “I told them look, ‘I’m going to edit myself. I’m used to doing a three-minute song, I can certainly edit down to 31 pages of a children’s book.”
The new book follows the release of “The Essential Gloria Estefan,” a greatest hits collection Sony BMG Music from her days with Miami Sound Machine and her solo career. Included on the double-CD set is the 1984 smash “Dr. Beat,” which brought Miami Sound Machine’s fusion of Latin and pop to the American masses. Other hits like “Conga” followed, as did her multiplatinum pop career.
Choosing the songs for the album proved challenging for Estefan — who planned a career in psychiatry or international law before meeting her musician husband, Emilio, and joining his band in 1975.
“It was tough for me because the songs that I would pick would not be the songs that were singles,” she said. “I wanted it to be like a journey in somebody’s past, if they’ve been fans, that these songs remind them of certain time period and what they were going through.”
One song on the CD, “Coming Out of the Dark,” is from her 1991 album “Into the Light,” released a year after the Pennsylvania bus crash that nearly killed her and left her paralyzed. Slowly she rehabilitated and did what many thought she couldn’t — walk, dance, perform. She received inspiration from fans during her recovery and afterward.
“I would think to myself ‘OK, I’m a public figure and ... maybe this is the reason, besides the opportunity to communicate to people,”’ she said. “Maybe I’m supposed to be showing people how you can change your life.”
Estefan’s life in the United States began when her family fled Fidel Castro’s Cuban revolution when she was 2. She quickly learned English, and started playing guitar and singing to her grandmother’s old Cuban records. That formed a musical base that she would rely upon.
Estefan not only has written songs for herself, but also has helped with the emergence in the mid-1990s of Latin music crossover stars. Her producer husband, Emilio Estefan, has produced for Ricky Martin and Shakira and Gloria wrote a song for Jennifer Lopez.
Through it all, Estefan says she has remained grounded. Fans are likely to see her at Miami Heat games, and she goes to her 11-year-old daughter’s basketball games and picks her up from school (she also has an adult son).
She hasn’t recorded an album since 2003’s “Unwrapped,” but she is staying busy. She is working on another all-Spanish language CD and a screenplay about singer Connie Francis, which she plans to star in the leading role.
And Estefan continues to write, with a third book planned featuring Noelle the bulldog.
“My favorite process is writing, from day one,” she said. “The songs I have written throughout the years were a real great opportunity for me to communicate, because I think that’s my prime objective on this planet.”