Miami Book Fair…Online ;)


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Guys…as part of MBF 2020, I recently had the amazing opportunity to interview James Ponti on his new book: City Spies. My 10-yr old can’t put it down! Read below.

LA: As kids, especially generation X, we were told we can do anything, be anything and save the future. The kids in your latest book are tasked with that. What do you think of the future generations: Y, Z and Alpha went it comes to “saving the world” with technology?

JM: I have great faith in upcoming generations, but I think they’ll save the world with their hearts not their hard drives. Certainly, technology is omnipresent in lives of kids and it plays a significant role in this book – a major character is a hacker and a high-tech company may or may not be the malevolent force behind the proceedings. That said, I’ve tried to de-emphasize the tech aspect of spying. High tech spying still leaves digital fingerprints, so the City Spies are more old school in their approach. They rely on human intelligence and interpersonal relationships. Their analog approach is part of what makes things work for them.

LA: This book involves a lot of travel and worldly challenges. How can you see a real kid in NYC poised to lead a revolution around the world?

JP: I think one of the beautiful things about our technological connectivity is that a kid in New York can reach kids across the world. Whether it’s through a blog or social media, they can amplify their voices like never before. This can be used for superficial expressions but also for meaningful ones. That’s where real change can begin. I wanted to tap into that worldliness with the characters in City Spies in part to show a diversity that exists, but also to highlight the fact that many of the problems with tween and teen life are universal.

Web image from James Ponti

LA: Your book focuses on a group of kids (friends). Technology has helped to hinder “real-life” relationships. Can you envision a world where technology can actually bring people together and contain real friendships and relationships?

JP: The key themes of all my books are variations of what it means to be a friend or to form a family. I write about interpersonal relationships and drop them into a backdrop of spying and mystery. I think technology can both hinder and help the development of relationships. I saw this as a parent watching my son navigate some tricky ground. In my opinion, the biggest detriment to social development is the artificial nature that so much of social media creates. But on the positive side, I think the technological world can help you find like-minded souls who may be scattered to the winds. People you wouldn’t be able to find any other way. 

More on the book:

Sara Martinez is a hacker facing years in juvenile detention, until she meets Mother, a spy who gets her out of jail and into MI6, British Secret Intelligence.

Operating out of a castle in Scotland, the City Spies are five kids from around the world who’ve fallen through the cracks only to form a family like no other. When they’re not at the local boarding school, they’re mastering spy skills like sleight of hand, breaking and entering, covert observation, and explosives. So they can go places in the world of espionage where adults can’t.

Before she knows what she’s doing, Sara’s off to Paris for an international youth summit, hacking into a rival school’s computer to prevent them from winning a million euros, dangling thirty feet off the side of a building, and trying to stop a villain…all while navigating the complex dynamics of her new team.

No one said saving the world was easy…

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