Join us in celebrating CITY FEET'S book birthday! We sat down with debut Musa Aixa Pérez-Prado to learn all about the inspiration behind this book.
But first, a little bit about City Feet:
CITY FEET is a multilingual rhyming tribute to the rhythms and diversity of city streets, shown from a toddler's view of funny, fancy and fabulous feet.
How would you describe your main character? Why did you create your character that way?
The main character in this story is a baby that is observing the multitude of interesting and curious legs and feet that are moving in all sorts of ways through the city. It’s actually only the baby’s legs and feet that are seen in the book. The same is true for all other characters, all of the illustrations are legs and feet. The story is shown from a baby in a stroller’s perspective. There is only one place in the whole book where we see the whole baby and that is hidden under the back cover so take a peek!
Where did you get the idea to write this particular story?
I actually wrote the first version of this story for a contest. The goal was to write a story of 250 words or less for an early childhood publishing initiative. The focus was meant to be on diversity in urban areas and the use of rhyme was recommended.
I was a semi-finalist in that contest with a different story, but this story was my favorite. I knew it was special because the rhythm and beat of the text stuck in readers’ heads. I had many comments about how people kept chanting the words throughout the day after reading it.
Can you share your path to publication for this book?
I entered the Latinx Pitch contest on twitter with this story last year. I have been fairly successful at pitching on twitter, at least in terms of getting requests, but this is the first time a pitch has led to publication. I pitched by using one of the stanzas in the story. Winsome Bingham, an editor at Reycraft liked my pitch. I think she really liked the fact that I was blending different languages into my rhyme scheme. I went ahead and sent the story to my agent and we quickly had a meeting and an offer. It was so fast, I could hardly believe it!
What was your favorite part of the publication process with this story?
Because I had lots of ideas for the illustration of this story, my agent suggested that I make a dummy to send to the editor. I had made a couple of dummies before as a fledgling illustrator, but wasn’t very confident in my abilities. Still, I had such a clear idea of how I wanted this book to look with only legs and feet, that I jumped at the chance. However, once I started working on the dummy, I was struggling to translate my idea into reality. I reached out to my friend and critique partner, Cristina Keller, an illustrator from Venezuela. She invited me to her studio and in a few minutes showed me how I could achieve my vision. It was like magic! I completed the dummy and soon after received the offer to be the illustrator.
I was thrilled. I loved the entire process of illustrating and absolutely adored my super talented and lovely art director Katya Schultz. She made everything I did look better and talked me off a couple of ledges along the way. I loved working with everyone at Reycraft, they are the best!
What comes next for you as an author?
I hope to have my heart stories exploring identity, belonging, immigration, and multilingualism through humor published one day. These are the stories that brought me to writing for kidlit and I would love to see little Latinxers and other kids with intersectional identities finding themselves in my books.
On the non-fiction side, I have a biography coming out in 2024 with Lee & Low, MERCEDES SOSA: VOICE OF THE PEOPLE. Mercedes Sosa was a singer and social justice champion from my home country of Argentina. This book actually sold before CITY FEET but the road to publication has been longer. I am super excited that the illustrator has finally been chosen, and I couldn’t be happier.
But since she has not yet been officially, announced, I think I have to keep it to myself for now…stay tuned!
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