Children’s Book Review: Olinguito Speaks Up / Olinguito Alza La Voz by Cecília Velástegui

by DerdriuMarriner

"Olinguito Speaks Up / Olinguito Alza La Voz" by Cecília Velástegui is a bilingual children's story, in English and Spanish, about a newly discovered charmer of a species.


Earth-bound issues affect even the highest-up of lofty altitude life forms. Many remote mountain-dwelling animals are unknown to scientists if not to locals. But one mysterious mountain recluse, the olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina), is known worldwide since an announcement and a book in 2013.

Dr. Kristofer Helgen, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Mammals Department Curator, announced the olinguito's reclusive existence on August 15, 2013.

Cecília Velástegui, Andean-dwelling native and Ecuadorian-born writer, fictionalized the olinguito's environmental niche on December 17, 2013.


olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina ruber) in favored habitat: up a fig (Ficus ssp.) tree

cropped from illustration of four Bassaricyon species


Cecília's 36-page book, Olinguito Speaks Up / Olinguito alta la voz, is available -- in bilingual English/Spanish format for readers aged 7-10 years -- through Libros Publishing LLC.

Artist Judi Smolin contributes the cover's compelling depiction of the limber, nimble, petite mammal. Illustrator Jade Feng embellishes Cecília's lively text with the lush colors of the central Neotropics.

Her illustrations particularly favor the vivid greens of the airborne bromeliads with which olinguitos build arboreal nests and the tomato-sized wild figs which dominate olinguito diets of epiphytic nectar and tree-dwelling arthropods in central Colombia and Ecuador.

The writer holds reader interest with a retiring, thumb-sucking olinguito's emotionally-arced, patient observations and prescient reactions to cloud-forest wildlife scoffing Tomás the Galápagos Island tortoise's (Chelonoidis nigra) storytelling hours.


Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra abingdonii), is remembered by Tomás, a Galapagos tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra), in "Olinguito Speaks Up," a children's story by Cecilia Velástegui.

Puerto Ayora, Galapagos, Ecuador
Puerto Ayora, Galapagos, Ecuador


Excepting Tomás, Cecília's cast of wildlife characters comprises the residents of the Western Andes Mountains in northern South America. The Andes constitutes the world's longest mountain range. Cecília's characters inhabit western slopes included within the Ecuadorian provinces of Cotopaxi and Pichincha.


Like all olinguito young, Cecília's protagonist is an only kit of a yearly litter. Olinguitos live year-round in the cloud-, fog- and mist-encased canopies 32 feet (10 meters) up from the root flares of gnarled, stout trees, at elevations 5,000-9,000 feet (1,524-2,743 meters) above sea level. They realize 1-foot (0.3-meter) jumps between branches during nightly foraging and socializing. They showcase limbs with reversible ankles and paws with padded soles and sharp claws for descending trunks, head-first and squirrel-like, even though they are not known to leave the treetops.


It is from these heights that Cecília's olinguito becomes entranced with Tomás the terrestrially-bound turtle. The non-talking, real-life equivalent of Tomás is Cecília's 150-plus-year-old pet Galápagos Island tortoise. Cecília indeed maintains solid understanding of environmental concerns and mammalian behavior through:

  • Domesticating 13 animals, including the alpacas (Vicugna pacos) Khipus and Tupac;
  • Getting her M.S.Ed. from the University of Southern California;
  • Knowing four languages;
  • Visiting 60 countries.


As New World natives, olinguitos (Bassaricyon neblina) favor cloud forests.

cloud forest near Mindo, Pichincha province, northwestern Ecuador
cloud forest near Mindo, Pichincha province, northwestern Ecuador


Cloud-forest amphibians, bats, beetles, monkeys and raptors believe the centenarian incapable of defeating a wild seal-tormenting pirate. They likewise belittle stories about longnose stubfoot toads (Atelopus longirostris) and Pinta Island tortoises (Chelonoidis nigra abingdonii). But Olinguito deduces that Tomás memorializes wildlife threatened or vanquished by agro-industrial-induced habitat destruction and climate change-provoked fungal and viral diseases.


Cecília's olinguito evinces the ever-loving youthfulness of the wiki-libraries we become in respecting wildland-urban interfaces. Olinguito expects to mature into a 14-inch (355-millimeter) bodied, 13- to 17-inch (330- to 431-millimeter) tailed, 2-pound (0.9-kilogram) black-and-gold-tipped, red-brown furball.


Cecília's book inspires readers of all ages to protect the world of 2013's news-breaking discovery: the olinguito.


Olinguito Speaks Up - Book Trailer (English)

Published on YouTube on December 16, 2013 by Cecilia Velástegui ~ URL:



My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.


Olinguito, northwestern Costa Rican town of Monteverde:

The scenic town's Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (la Reserva Forestal de Monteverde) is recognized by National Geographic as "the jewel in the crown of cloud forest reserves."
photo by Greg Basco
photo by Greg Basco

Sources Consulted


Helgen, K. M.; Pinto, M.; Kays, R.; Helgen, L.; Tsuchiya, M.; Quinn, A.; Wilson, D.; Maldonado, J. (15 August 2013). "Taxonomic revision of the olingos (Bassaricyon), with description of a new species, the Olinguito." ZooKeys 324: 1-83.

Velástegui, C. (2013). Olinguito Speaks Up / Olinguito alta la voz. Libros Publishing LLC. Monarch Beach, California.


olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina)

Tandayapa Bird Lodge, northwestern Ecuador
Tandayapa Bird Lodge, northwestern Ecuador
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Olinguito Speaks Up by Cecilia Velástegui

Olinguito is a shy and furry animal that sucks his thumb all day long and hides in the treetops of the Ecuadorian cloud forest. No one in the whole world knows that he exists.
olinguito-themed stories

North and South America: black t-shirt ~ Available via AllPosters

New World natives, olinguitos have homelands on both continents of the Americas.
North and South America
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Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 12/19/2014, DerdriuMarriner
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