Juana & Lucas
Author and Illustrator: Juana Medina
Expected Publication September 27th, 2016 by Candlewick Press
Summary: Juana loves many things — drawing, eating Brussels sprouts, living in Bogotá, Colombia, and especially her dog, Lucas, the best amigo ever. She does not love wearing her itchy school uniform, solving math problems, or going to dance class. And she especially does not love learning the English. Why is it so important to learn a language that makes so little sense? But when Juana’s abuelos tell her about a special trip they are planning—one that Juana will need to speak English to go on—Juana begins to wonder whether learning the English might be a good use of her time after all. Hilarious, energetic, and utterly relatable, Juana will win over los corazones — the hearts — of readers everywhere in her first adventure, presented by namesake Juana Medina.
Review: Early chapter books are one of my book gaps, and I have been trying, over the last few years, to read as many of them as I can, so I was very happy to have the chance to read Medina’s Juana & Lucas. One thing I have noticed as I read these beloved early chapter books are that although the characters may be diverse in some aspects of their culture/identity, most of the characters are not diverse in their ethnicity. However, now here comes Juana (and Bea Garcia!). She is a character that everyone reading will relate to in some way, and now Latina/Latino students or students learning English will have a character to relate to in early chapter books.
In addition to the new diversity in this group of books, Juana & Lucas is also just a funny and sweet book about a young girl who has to learn that working hard to learn or be able to do something new is worth the work. This theme will definitely resonate with so many students!
I also want to add that I didn’t know much about Columbia when I started, but when Juana starts talking about Bogotá, you can hear her love of the city come through the pages, so I went to Wikipedia right away to learn more about the city, and I am in love! I told Jim I want to retire there. It is beautiful, and their temperature varies from 43 to 66 degrees! That is the perfect weather! Now, I have to go through the same thing as Juana and learn Spanish, so I am ready to go in 25 or so years 🙂
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Juana’s story will be an asset for writing, reading, Spanish, and ELL classes. Medina’s writing can be used as a mentor text for voice and descriptive language, the story is perfect for reading strategies such as context clues and character analysis, the book includes Spanish words throughout the story that aren’t always defined, and Juana is struggling with learning English. All of these things make Juana’s story one that is a perfect addition to all classrooms.
Discussion Questions: How did the character pages help you learn about the different characters in the book vs. if they had not been included? (Class activity: have students complete a character page like Juana’s about members of their family, characters in different books, or a character before they write a narrative.); How does Juana overcome the struggles she has with English at the beginning of the book?; How does each character throughout help Juana grow as a students and person?; Why do you think the author chose to have some words in different size and bold font?; How did the author help you “hear” Juana’s voice while you were reading?; How were you able to determine the meaning of the Spanish words throughout the book?
Flagged Passages: “Mami is the most important person in my life. Most. Important. And here’s why: Besides being the best of moms, Mami is really good at taking care of plants. She loves all plants, even the ones with the complicated names I can’t pronounce…” (p. 31)
Read This If You Loved: Bea Garcia: My Life in Pictures by Deborah Zemke, Amelia’s Notebook series by Marissa Moss, Judy Moody series by Megan McDonald