Juana and Lucas / written and illustrated by Juana Medina. 6.13.2017

Candlewick Press ISBN 9780763672089

INT Grades 3-4 Rating: 5

Juana and Lucas introduces a vivacious little girl, Juana, who loves her life. She loves drawing. She loves her hometown, Bogatá, Columbia. She loves and admires her mother. She loves her grandparents, her friend Juli, and her Tia Cris. She especially loves Lucas, her dog. But a challenge has entered her happy world. She is expected to learn English. She has to pronounce “th” and figure out how to tell the difference between read and read, and so many other elements of the English language, and she simply doesn’t understand how English relates to her Spanish-speaking world. She asks various friends and family members who unsuccessfully attempt to help her understand how speaking and understanding English would be helpful. The best motivation to learn English comes when poor grades could possibly prevent Juana from taking a trip to Spaceland in the United States. Will she be able to cram all those words and sounds in the space between her pigtails, or is it too late to raise her grades?

In this chapter book, Juana Medina’s writing paints the picture of a fun-loving, interesting young girl, and Medina’s cartoonish illustrations also bring little Juana to life. Written in first person, Juana and Lucas reads like a conversation with a third grader. Juana’s character grows throughout the book as she expands her knowledge. Her loving family surrounds her with support and encouragement. Familiar Spanish words are lightly sprinkled throughout, giving English readers a small taste of what Juana experiences while learning a different language. Occasionally different size fonts and even unusual word direction are employed to illustrate the size of Juana’s thoughts or her feelings. The mostly cheerful Juana brightens any room she walks in–even the reader’s living room. Even though learning English presents a challenge, once she has, she wonders, “…if there will be enough espacio between my pigtails for French and Chinese and Italian and Farsi and Portuguese and all the other languages. Maybe it’s time to…ask Lucas what he thinks about that.” (p. 89)

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ