Juana & Lucas is a delightful romp inside the world of Juana a young child living in Bogota, Colombia, South America. Juana is a very forthright girl and early on we find out the things she likes including, of all things, Brussels sprouts (repollitas).
Take some time now and read this splendid review by Elizabeth Bird of Juana & Lucas in the School Library Journal.
I am always looking for simple easy to read books for our youngest students. I have a 'box' full of criteria which include a good story, an attractive book, and a story with humour (done with a light touch) and Juana & Lucas more than meets my criteria.
Brightly coloured illustrations are scattered throughout the book, there are words that pop out of pages either by size or font. I especially like the pages with character diagrams - you can see one her about Juana's mother.
Juana reminds me of Clementine, Daisy Dawson and Anna Hibiscus. She loves her city of Bogota, she loves reading and often reads late into the night and the best part of her school day is playing futbol. Juana does not like her school uniform (boys can see her pink underpants), her hot classroom and most of all having to learn "the English."
I really appreciated the way Juana Medina weaves Spanish into her story and that she is not tempted to offer translations. She allows her readers to use their intelligence and work out any unfamiliar words. Of course Spanish speaking children will delight in knowing all these words.
Here are some examples :
"I can't stop pnesando about my crushed lunch box all morning."
"chances are you'll find me in bed with a book .. or dos, or tres!"
"Sitting with Juli is always good because we have mucho to talk about."
I also want to share some of the humour - and show how Juana Medina has such a light touch.
"I love my furry amigo Lucas. He is the smartest and most amazing perro every born. ... He is my absolutely-no-single-doubt-about-it best amigo. Some say Lucas is neurotic. I do not think so. He is actually quite calm, especially while sleeping."
Lucas "eats math homework like a pro. The harder the homework, the faster he'll eat it."
"Juli is a very good friend. ... She has two brothers, one older and one younger. She's in a brother sandwich!"
Juana & Lucas is the 2017 winner of the Pura Belpre award which is is "presented to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth."
Here is an audio sample to give you an idea of this story. Here is a video of Juana Medina showing her art processes.
I believe the book is a great choice for students who are seeking a new or greater understanding of global cultures as well as students whose experiences are similar to Juana’s, such as having to learning a new language yet maintaining a strong sense of cultural identity. Mr J The Librarian