Hi Math is Everywhere Readers,
I’m delighted to chat with an amazing debut picture book author today who I hope will inspire you to write from your heart: Cynthia Harmony. She is going to chat with me about her debut book MI CIUDAD SINGS, illustrated by Teresa Martinez.
Description of book from the publisher Penguin Workshop:
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.
Kaitlyn: Hi, Cynthia, thanks so much for visiting today!
Cynthia: Hi Kaitlyn, I love having the opportunity to chat with you, thank you so much for having me!
Kaitlyn: My pleasure, especially because I love how beautiful this book is and that it took an unexpected turn. Can you start by sharing how this book came to be?
Cynthia: Thank you! What I write comes directly from my life experiences and my background as an educational psychologist, my understanding of child development and the stories that matter to me. Mi Ciudad Sings is a love letter to Mexico City, the city where I was born and grew up in. Like the main character in the book, the familiar city sounds are music to my ears and the experience of my community coming together after the earthquake in 2017 brought tears to my eyes and a powerful feeling of hope that I wanted to share.
Kaitlyn: Thank you for sharing this beautiful story of hope. Speaking of hope, can you share why books like this are so important to share with our little ones?
Cynthia: Picture books can be wonderful tools and conversation starters. So many of the social problems we’re facing come from a lack of empathy and connection. These stories provide a safe space to understand a range of emotions, empowering kids to navigate them and can give us a glimpse into not only feeling compassion, but a deeper empathy level of taking action to help others. Picture books like these are powerful because they’re not didactic or based on moral teaching. Mi Ciudad Sings is a recap on a real event, an open invitation to reflect on human nature and where we place value in life. An opportunity to think about what’s important to us and how we show it.
Kaitlyn: Yes, children (and adults) need these invitations to reflect, especially ones like this filled with so much hope. In the back matter, you share that in your city, two different earthquakes occurred decades apart on the same exact day. It was so wonderful to read about the improvements that happened from one quake to the next and your book does such a beautiful job showing the community pulling together in these times of need. I love how you found beauty in these situations. Was that something that came to you immediately during these experiences and was it difficult to dip into the emotions from those times to write this story?
Cynthia: Yes the amazing true stories and aftermath anecdotes of people selflessly helping and coming to each other’s support immediately became the why of the story. The song of the city has a brief halt during the earthquake like it happens with any of life’s challenges, but the book keeps the focus on hope and togetherness. I wanted readers to experience rising above fear and sadness into the power of action and resilience, and I think the process of writing it allowed me to focus on that myself. When a whole group of people suddenly realizes what matters most, it can give us a deep sense of hope in humankind and that is a powerful, healing emotion. Something to sing about.
Kaitlyn: Definitely something to sing about! I love stories that remind us how amazing humanity can be. The art for this story is so adorable. Can you share the process for finding the artist and what you thought when you saw the art?
Cynthia: The team at Penguin Workshop wanted to find an illustrator with Mexican heritage since the story is set in Mexico City and luckily were able to fit this project with Teresa Martinez’s schedule. The city comes alive with so many of her amazing and authentic details. She created a soft, safe and sweet experience with her art that complements the story so wonderfully.
Kaitlyn: She really did; I’m so glad she was able to illustrate this book. Now if you had to pick, what is your favorite scene of this book?
Cynthia: The last two spreads because it’s when the story comes full circle. The song of the city is restored and sums up the feeling of hope and moving forward.
Kaitlyn: Beautiful. Can you share who your editor for this book was and why you enjoyed working with this editor?
Cynthia: My editor for this book is Anu Ohioma from Penguin Workshop. I think it was important that she established a rapport with me by having a Zoom call at the beginning of the process to explain her vision. After that, edits were quick and straightforward and I was able to communicate all my thoughts and hopes during the process. I’m grateful that she championed this book in both English and Spanish.
Kaitlyn: It sounds like an amazing experience! Can you share who your agent is and why you love working with this agent?
Cynthia: My first agent Natacha Morris sold this book. She’s a passionate agent and I’m very grateful for her support and encouragement during this time and the connection made with my agent siblings. When she switched agencies James McGowan became my agent. He is a hard-working, professional and very responsive agent and I feel fortunate to be working with him. James sold the Spanish edition of this story, Mi Ciudad Canta.
Kaitlyn: Wow! So you had two amazing agents working on this book–what a dream! Finally, if you could meet your favorite author, illustrator, or author-illustrator, would you chat by a fireside or go on an adventure?
Cynthia: Go on an adventure. As much as I enjoy chatting one on one with someone (way more than big groups) when you share an experience, there’s the potential for a long lasting memory and the opportunity to build a new friendship. I’d be up for that, as long as we’re not bungee jumping.
Kaitlyn: What a beautiful way to end our interview about such a beautiful book. Thank you so much for stopping by today and sharing about MI CIUDAD SINGS.
Author Bio and links
Cynthia Harmony is an author and educational psychologist, originally from Mexico City. She has published for the educational market and was awarded the 2020 “We Need Diverse Books” Mentorship. Her picture books MI CIUDAD SINGS (2022) and FLICKER OF HOPE (2023) will be released simultaneously in English and Spanish by Penguin Young Readers.
When not writing, Cynthia can be found in a museum with her kids, dancing to a Latin beat, daydreaming of tacos, or planning her next family trip.
Kaitlyn’s Review of MI CIUDAD SINGS
Mi Ciudad Sings is a lovely book that showcases how beautiful a city is. Suddenly, the harmony is disrupted, but the city barely misses a beat before it starts working together to restore itself. This story would be wonderful to share with every kid in your life to share about beauty, working together, and resilience, and kids who enjoy history will especially enjoy the back matter.
Giveaway- A copy of MI CIUDAD SINGS (US only please)
To enter the random drawing, do any/all of the following options, then come back and write all of the things you did in ONE blog comment. (If you forget something, feel free to reply to your first comment ;))
- Share that you added Mi Cuidad Sings to your Goodreads “Want to Read” list and/or your Amazon Wishlist
- Share that you ordered a copy of Mi Cuidad Sing
- Share that you did a purchase request for Mi Cuidad Sing at your library
- Share that you left a review on Amazon or Barnes and Noble
- Share that you retweeted or quote retweeted my tweet about this blog post on Twitter and tagged some friends.
Thank you, readers, for always supporting such wonderful creators! I hope Cynthia was inspiring, and if you want more inspiration and prizes this week, check out #KidlitZombieWeek here and on Twitter here.
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez