Today we are chatting with Cynthia Harmony (Author) & Teresa Martinez (Illustrator) of MI CIUDAD SING/MI CIUDAD CANTA!
Read on for more about them, their book, and a giveaway!
Meet Cynthia Harmony:
Cynthia Harmony is an educational psychologist who has created exhibits and bilingual learning materials for children and science museums. Originally from Mexico City, Cynthia is a children’s author and translator, and this is her debut picture book.
Meet Teresa Martinez:
Teresa Martínez is the illustrator of numerous books for children, including The Halloween Tree, Sing with Me: The Story of Selena Quintanilla, and It’s Not a Bed, It’s a Time Machine. She lives in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
About the Book: MI CIUDAD SING/MI CIUDAD CANTA
After experiencing a devastating earthquake, the spirit of a charming and vibrant Mexican neighborhood might be shaken, but it cannot be broken.
As a little girl and her dog embark on their daily walk through the city, they skip and spin to the familiar sounds of revving cars, clanking bikes, friendly barks, and whistling camote carts. But what they aren’t expecting to hear is the terrifying sound of a rumbling earthquake…and then…silence.
With captivating text and lively, beautiful illustrations, this heartwarming story leaves readers with the message that they can choose to be strong and brave even when they are scared, and can still find joy and hope in the midst of sadness.
~Author/ Illustrator chat~
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
Cynthia: I was born and grew up in Mexico City. In September 2017, a very strong earthquake took place there. I was living in Arizona at the time, but I followed the tragedy through family and friends. What was most striking about the aftermath of this event was the outpouring of generosity. I was very moved and inspired by the efforts of my community coming together and helping each other, and knew I had to share this story.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
Cynthia: I love my main character, my little girl is brave, inspiring, generous, mighty and has a lovely relationship with her mom and neighbors. But I have to say my favorite character is Pancho, based on my real-life dog who passed away two years ago. He is the character that provides company, support, love, comfort, and a safe space throughout the emotional journey of the story.
TERESA: I love the girl, the main character, because I feel identified with the way she reacts and behaves throughout the story. Although I must confess that I love dogs and her pet is one of my favorites too.
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
Cynthia: The circular structure of the last spread. It provides a satisfying and hopeful ending showing the music and rhythm of the city restored. It resembles the morning before the earthquake, but with an added layer of community love.
TERESA: The scene with the military helping to organize the citizens. That was one of the strongest images in the 2017 earthquake because it symbolized the union of the people, the strength to resist and solidarity.
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?
Cynthia: The power of revision. A friend once told me that when he is unsure about a life decision he “puts it on ice.” I find myself coming back to this phrase in life and writing. Time is sometimes a luxury when there are deadlines, but I find that the space that you can give yourself between drafts is so helpful to find out not only what the story is really about, but what lens you want or need to bring to it. Sometimes we need to sit with feedback and let the unconscious mind solve the puzzle to come up with new ideas, before we can get back to work.
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
Cynthia: The city setting with its beautiful landmarks, the sense of hope in the characters, and the floating jacaranda flowers leading the way.
TERESA: That it fully reflects the story inside the book, it has a lot of little details, I also feel that the image of the jacaranda flowers floating is lovely. Jacaranda trees are so representative of Mexico City.
YABC: What is the main message or lesson you would like your reader to remember from this book?
Cynthia: The theme is timely, we’ve been navigating a global pandemic with huge challenges and opportunities to offer support to each other. More than a lesson, I hope readers can have conversations about opportunities to contribute something positive to the community. I hope we all get to experience how being proactive in joining efforts for the greater good is one of the most helpful ways to find purpose during difficult times and overcome fear and sadness. I think kids particularly, are truly amazing at finding and sharing hope.
TERESA: That we can all face difficult situations if we collaborate in community, in harmony and with love.
YABC: Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
TERESA: Visually I think it was the scene of the earthquake, because I am aware that not all children have experienced one, so I had to make it clear how something that is felt for an instant is represented graphically.
YABC: What would you say is your superpower?
Cynthia: During the last Latinx Kidlit Book Festival Margarita Engle quoted her favorite Cuban poet Dulce Maria Loynaz: “En mi verso soy libre” – “In my verse I am free.” I think this is a writers’ superpower. We can express ourselves on the page, reorganize it and polish it to make sense of the world and share it with others to feel deeply connected. Artists choose different mediums to contribute their talents to the world, but I think the page and words have been mine since I was a kid.
TERESA: Draw what I want, love to draw and make a living out of it.
YABC: What’s up next for you?
Cynthia: My next picture book comes out in 2023, A FLICKER OF HOPE published by Viking. It’s a parallel story about a girl that waits for the monarch butterflies to bring her papá back home. The parallel and poetic structure was a challenge, but it was important to get it right because this book encapsulates so much of what I stand for. I’m so proud of this story, hoping to honor the Mazahua community that inspired it.
TERESA: I am working on diverse books with very different themes, but the common denominator is that they are all designed to teach children something useful in a funny way. I’m also working on a graphic novel written by Stephen Desberg that is going to be published in France.
YABC: What’s a book you’ve recently read and loved?
TERESA: Mexican Gothic. It is a very entertaining novel. It made me dream of old times in a dark Mexican fantasy atmosphere.
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
TERESA: During the 2017 earthquake I donated art to help the auxiliary forces. Besides that, science has always attracted me, so I try as much as possible to help scientific causes, a sector that suffers from limitations in my country.
YABC: What advice do you have for new illustrators?
TERESA: For young artists I recommend to draw a lot every day and make sure your work is visible, you never know who might be looking.
Book’s Title: MI CIUDAD SINGS
MI CIUDAD CANTA
Author: Cynthia Harmony
Illustrator by Teresa Martinez
Release Date: June 14, 2022
Publisher: Penguin Workshop
ISBN-10: 0593226841; 0593520055
ISBN-13: 9780593226841; 0593520055
Genre: Children’s Bilingual Picture Book
Three winners will receive an English and Spanish copy of MI CIUDAD SINGS/ MI CIUDAD CANTA (Cynthia Harmony) ~US Only
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*