This week we are so excited to sit down with debut Musa Monica Gomez-Hira and discuss her debut novel. Before we get started, a little bit about Monica’s debut Once Upon a Quinceañera:
Eighteen-year-old Carmen Aguilar missed graduating from her Miami high school by that much--one credit short after she overreacted to a teacher destroying her dream of becoming a video editor. She's relieved when a summer internship gives her another chance at her diploma. But instead of pushing papers, Carmen, the queen of screw-ups, finds herself dressing up as a Disney princess for children's parties.
When her company is hired to perform at her spoiled cousin's extravagant quinceañera, everyone fears Carmen will sabotage it. Her cousin Ariana was the reason Carmen's own coming-of-age celebration was canceled three years earlier, and the families haven't spoken since. This quince is an olive branch, an attempt to bring the families back together. Making matters worse is Carmen's new dance partner: Mauro Reyes, her most regrettable ex. Absence may have made him hotter, but it didn't make her fonder.
Still, Carmen is determined to leave the past in the past, even if late-night chats with Mauro stir up old feelings. She's even getting along with Ariana. As the quinceañera approaches, along with the end of the summer, Carmen must break the spell of past resentments if she wants her own happily ever after.
Okay, Monica let’s get to it!
We are excited to share the cover of author Laurenne Sala & illustrator Zara González Hoang’s new picture book, Mi Casa Is My Home, out from Candlewick on Sept 7th. The book stars Lucía who leads readers through her cozy house, introducing them to her favorite spots and her big, loud, beautiful familia. It is a charming Spanglish celebration of family life.
Laurenne’s sweet story, written in the perfect mix of Spanish and English is paired with Zara’s bright colors and warm details like lively plants and jars of habichuelas, which make the story and the characters feel relatable and fun.
The celebration of home in this bilingual picture book feels like an abrazo from your most favorite people, your familia. Mi Casa is My Home is available for preorder HERE!
All righty! Here it is. The beautiful cover of Mi Casa Is My Home, here for the first time ever out in the world and on the Las Musas blog. Illustrated by Zara González Hoang and designed by Hayley Parker.
To celebrate the reveal of the book’s adorable cover, Laurenne and Zara asked each other a few questions about their experiences working on the book and about the bits of themselves they brought to it.
ZARA: What inspired you to write Mi Casa?
LAURENNE: Growing up, I never really thought about my house so much, but a few years ago, my mom put my childhood home up for sale, and I became an emotional mess! I couldn’t imagine handing over a place full of so many memories! It was the first home I ever knew. Living there 18 years, it had become one of my best friends. We knew everything about each other. Thinking of all those wonderful memories inspired a poem. And when I rewrote it again in my preferred language, Spanglish, it worked even better.
What was it about Mi Casa that made you want to sign on to illustrate it?
ZARA: Oh everything! I remember when I got the manuscript I was actually working at my local library, and I was taking a break and happened to check my email on my phone and there was your manuscript in my inbox. I read it and it was like I was reading a story about my own family – which makes sense, now that I know you a bit better since we share so many similarities in our families and our backgrounds! I absolutely adored the story and felt so incredibly lucky to have been asked to illustrate it, I knew as soon as I read it the first time that this was a story I wanted to illustrate.
What is it like to write a story and send it off without having any clue how it will be illustrated? And what was it like to see the artwork for Mi Casa for the first time?
Las Musas wishes a happy book birthday to Hilda Eunice Burgos for the release of her picture book debut The Cot in the Living Room!
Sometimes, what we want most isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and the process of that discovery leads us to something better. In many ways, this is one of the themes in Hilda’s beautiful debut, but it’s more than that—it’s a story of family and community that shows that “beautifully captures the gifts we receive when we open our hearts to others.” (BookPage, starred review).
Alexandra Alessandri interviews Hilda about her inspiration and process, but first, here’s a description of this sweet book:
A young Dominican American girl in New York City moves from jealousy to empathy as her parents babysit children whose families work overnight shifts in this honest and warm picture book debut.
Night after night, a young girl watches her mami set up a cot in the living room for guests in their Washington Heights apartment, like Raquel (who's boring) and Edgardo (who gets crumbs everywhere). She resents that they get the entire living room with a view of the George Washington Bridge, while all she gets is a tiny bedroom with a view of her sister (who snores). Until one night when no one comes, and it's finally her chance! But as it turns out, sleeping on the cot in the living room isn't all she thought it would be.
With charming text by Hilda Eunice Burgos and whimsical illustrations by Gaby D'Alessandro, The Cot in the Living Room is a celebration of the ways a Dominican American community takes care of one another while showing young readers that sometimes the best way to be a better neighbor is by imagining how it feels to spend a night sleeping on someone else's pillow.
Alexandra Alessandri: I adored The Cot in the Living Room so much! It reminded me a lot of my own childhood, only in my case, I was sent to sleep in the sofa and our guests would take my room. I wasn’t too keen on that. I love the sense of community and how the young protagonist’s emotional arc shifts as she goes from jealousy to finally getting what she wants, and how that becomes the catalyst for her having empathy toward her recurring guests. It’s what allows her to grow and show empathy.
I’m always curious about the book’s origin story. How did The Cot in the Living Room come to be? Who or what inspired it?
Hilda Eunice Burgos: When I was a child, I had a stay-at-home mom who babysat a lot of neighborhood kids. Mostly the children came during the day, but a few had to stay overnight because of their parents’ work schedules. When I was very young, I resented them encroaching on my family’s space and time together. As I got a little older, I realized how lucky I was and how difficult it must be for these children to spend the night alone in a stranger’s home.
AA: I love that, and the sentiment definitely comes across here. The Cot in the Living Room is written in 1st person, and we don’t actually get the main character’s name. Can you tell us a little about that choice? Was this always the case or did this come through in revision?
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