Mi Ciudad Sings written by Cynthia Harmony and illustrated by Teresa Martínez
Out now from Penguin Workshop; 32 pages
About the Author: Cynthia Harmony is an author and educational psychologist, originally from Mexico City. She has published for the educational market and was awarded the 2020 WNDB Mentorship. Her debut picture book MI CIUDAD SINGS, in Spanish MI CIUDAD CANTA is a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection. Her upcoming book A 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.” (Bio taken from author’s website.)
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About the Illustrator: “During her early childhood, Teresa lived in a small town north of Mexico, playing in the river, walking with the cows, and feeding the neighbor’s pigs. When her parents decided to move to the city (Monterrey) to give Teresa and her brothers a better education, she spent these later years missing that quiet life. Teresa was a very shy girl at school, and drawing helped her connect with other kids.
There was no career for Illustration in Mexico in those days, so Teresa decided to study Graphic Design and spent many afternoons reading books on art in the university’s library. She also took many painting courses and even went to Italy for a short course at the Leonardo Da Vinci School (Florence). Eventually, she started working as a children’s book illustrator and has been doing that ever since.
Now Teresa lives in Puerto Vallarta, drawing for kids (as she did in her school). Every other day, she gets to see the cows outside her house. And that makes her happy. (Bio taken from Amazon.)
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The story begins with a young girl strolling through the city with her beloved dog as she takes in the beautiful sounds of her neighborhood. They listen and dance to the singing on the radio, the revving of the car engines, and even the whistling of the street vendors. Until her city suddenly shook, the ground beneath her quaked, and, then, the city went quiet. Despite this frightening moment, the girl witnesses everyone in her community join together to support each other during this crisis. A new rhythm is introduced into the city, and, soon enough, her city once again sings.
Mi Ciudad Sings is the embodiment of hope, community, and pride. This story, inspired by the earthquakes that hit Mexico City on September 19, 1985, and in 2017, on the same day, does a magnificent job of depicting a terrifying experience as a moment where neighbors step up for one another. Beyond the real-life influences of the book, I loved the bilingual nature of the picture book. The mixture of languages blended perfectly with one another, allowing readers (especially Hispanic readers) to connect with their culture. Although there is also a Spanish release of this book, I appreciate that Harmony still kept some Spanish phrases in the English release, because it elevates the meaning of the book (as well as remaining true to the roots of the story). The illustrations in this picture book were beautiful as well. The use of warm, bright colors allowed readers to come into this book with positive and exciting emotions. The details in the background such as the cracks in the buildings, the expressions on the characters’ faces, and the food in the vendor stands made the story truly come to life. This picture book does an excellent job transporting the reader to Mexico City, even if they have never been there. I applaud Martínez for also creating a diverse set of characters in this book. All of their features are unique and not a carbon copy of one another.
The little girl in the book served as the perfect conduit for readers to navigate a disaster and understand how that disaster can spark communal support amongst strangers. During the second half of the book, readers get to witness as neighbors help rebuild their city, and they are once again united in song. Harmony writes at the end of her book that she wanted to “honor [her] community’s efforts and inspire readers everywhere to come together, both in times of joy and sadness,” and I firmly believe she succeeded in this hope. Mi Ciudad Sings demonstrates the power that comes from people joining together in times of crisis, inspiring children to do the same.
PRR Writer, Tereza Rascon
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