Meet Juana, a lively and opinionated grade school girl growing up in Bogotá, Colombia. She strongly dislikes wearing her hot and itchy school uniform but even more having to learn to speak English: “Why not just speak in Spanish? It is SO much easier!”
Juana comes from a middle-class white family. She likes drawing, the superhero Astroman, and eating Brussels sprouts. She loves Bogotá, reading, her mother, and her dog, Lucas. When she finds out they will be learning to speak English in school, Juana is not happy. She’s got trouble enough with learning math. English is muy hard. Told from Juana’s point of view with humor and drama, using capitalized words, periods separating words for emphasis, and a good sprinkling of Spanish words throughout, the book makes clear there’s a universality to Juana’s story. The ink-and-watercolor cartoon-style illustrations are charming, but depictions of the city are less precise than those of its diverse inhabitants. Readers not familiar with Bogotá will fail to get a real sense of place. And Juana’s trouble with English? Suffice it to say a promised trip to the U.S.A. to meet Astroman proves to be a great incentive.
The real gift of this book comes from presenting a different point of reference to American children who hear only stories of poverty and need coming out of South America. (Fiction. 5-9)