February 26, 2019

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Meet Juana Medina! | Reading Rockets

Juana Medina was born in Bogotá, Colombia, the place she has stated that her drawings obtained her in bother together with her lecturers. Fortunately for the kids’s guide world, Juana has turned her creative expertise to writing and illustrating. Juana obtained the celebrated 2017 Pura Belpre Award for Juana and Lucas (Candlewick), positive to be the primary of many honors.

She studied on the Rhode Island College of Design (RISD) the place she additionally taught. Juana at the moment teaches at George Washington College in Washington, D.C. and continues to jot down and illustrate books for younger readers in addition to for grownup shoppers around the globe.

Inform us about your childhood.

I grew up in Bogotá, Colombia, within the 80s. It was a busy time in Colombia, due to a really lengthy struggle. I had the fortune of rising up in a giant metropolis, inside a household that valued books and inspired me to be curious which someway helped counter the consequences of violence.

I grew up very near my grandparents; my grandma was a incredible woodworker and my grandfather a mind surgeon. They have been each tinkerers and inventors — early on, they constructed gear in my grandma’s studio for my grandfather to carry out surgical procedures. In addition they constructed boats and picket clocks and all types of issues.

So I had the fortune of being round folks whose pleasure to create (and share their creations) was contagious. They have been had a really significant affect on me. If I inform you about all my members of the family … this interview will flip right into a guide! With a purpose to maintain it quick, I will inform you I had a memorable childhood, listening to many audiobooks whereas drawing and studying well beyond bedtime, just because I could not put books down. Thank goodness my mother pulled me out of studying once in a while to ensure I would get some recent air and recognize the fantastic thing about this planet.

How a lot of the true Juana is mirrored in Juana and Lucas? 

A good quantity! There are issues like Spaceman and Spaceland, which might be utterly fictionalized (in actuality, this was Disney World I used to be going to, keen to fulfill Mickey Mouse). And plenty of cousins and uncles and aunts have been minimize out of the true story for readability’s sake. In any other case, Juana and Lucas would take at the very least eight tomes to unravel.

Was it the promise of a visit to an American theme park that impressed you to study English as a baby or was it one thing utterly completely different?

My mother says at some point she picked me up in school and I used to be livid. She requested what was fallacious and I informed her they needed to show me one thing referred to as “the English” and that I did not need to study it, no matter that was. She correctly stated we have been going to Disney World and that Mickey Mouse solely spoke English. That solved it! I needed to discover ways to communicate English. In fact, as soon as we made it to Orlando, I came upon that Mickey does not even communicate… I by no means imagined 30-something years later, I would be penning this story, a lot much less in English!

Juana and Lucas


Juana and Lucas is introduced as a standard illustrated guide however with components of comics. How and why did you determine to mix these types?

I needed to ensure the guide labored at a pair completely different ranges:

The typography was meant to work not simply as phrase, but additionally as kind [in order] so as to add some playfulness and make the guide extra dynamic. Particularly for individuals who could be reluctant readers, to have phrases come out of the web page and be drawn into determining extra of the narrative. I additionally hope it injects some power into the textual content, which we’re so used to seeing formatted in a really quiet and structured means, that I assumed it might use a little bit of a shakeup.

I needed illustrations to indicate Juana’s world and clue readers additional into the Spanish that’s peppered all through the guide. I additionally concern that many books for younger readers drop the illustrations as soon as kids transition from image books to chapter books, which I discover absurd — there’s a lot narrative to share by way of visuals!

Ultimately, the wedding of types (visible and prose) appeared coherent and added as much as one thing that I felt labored in an effort to inform this story.

You’ve written two idea books, 1 Huge Salad: A Scrumptious Counting Ebook (Viking) and ABC Pasta: An Entertaining Alphabet (Viking). Each are about meals and nearly really feel edible! How and why did you provide you with this manner of presenting counting and the alphabet to kids?

These two books are a part of a sequence I have been engaged on with Viking, for idea books (there is a third one quickly to come back!).

I get pleasure from vastly taking a look at meals as drawing materials. Vegatables and fruits deliver such vibrant colours to the web page that they made my job very simple; I simply needed to provide you with animals and draw a couple of traces!

The thought of pasta was a bit extra sophisticated, I used to be searching for meals/menu that may cowl the entire alphabet. So with my expensive editor and artwork director we brainstormed about picnics, pizza, sushi, soup (I do not suppose I would be adventurous sufficient to need to attempt a soup with substances from A by way of Z) … and arrived at pasta. A beloved sort of meals we are able to all study a bit about.

Along with writing and illustrating your personal books, you’ve illustrated Smick! written by Doreen Cronin (Viking). How does Smick examine to different canine in your life?

After I first learn the manuscript for Smick!, it jogged my memory of a German Pointer I grew up with. This energetic canine referred to as Max was curious and candy and immediately turned my muse for this guide.

You’ve labored in animation, too, in addition to different components of graphic design and illustration. Speak a bit about you different work and the way it could or could not relate to your books. 

As time goes by, I notice there are numerous overlaps between animation, design, and dealing on kids’s books. Image books really feel very very similar to a considerate collection of frames from a film, chosen to inform a narrative seamlessly.

Graphic design is a lot about utilizing visible components to successfully get a message throughout, in addition to bringing components to a minimal and making a system work. All of this whereas nonetheless being playful, partaking, memorable, and environment friendly. All of those are ideas used whereas making a kids’s guide.

How did you come to jot down and illustrate for younger readers?

I’ve at all times loved telling tales and drawing. It was a little bit of a pure match, although being terribly cussed, it did not even cross my thoughts that I might do that! I used to be simply obstinately attempting to make a residing doing different issues (like changing into a bodily therapist and in a while, a designer working in commercial). It took me some time to comprehend that this was one thing I might do and revel in vastly.

You might be bilingual and have lived in numerous nations and somewhere else within the U.S. What affect has this had or maybe proceed to have in your work as an writer, artist, and instructor?

It has nice affect! It means that you can understand the world in a extra advanced means, to comprehend that it is essential to take time to pay attention and observe intently, to assemble a greater understanding of different’s realities. It additionally has helped me notice that being an outsider will be became an asset to think about it as being a bridge, to search out empathy, to search out humor, to share our humanity and notice we’re not that completely different in spite of everything.

What’s your imaginative and prescient for the broad discipline of kids’s literature?

I believe there’s room for a lot of extra tales to be shared and I discover that extremely thrilling. Visiting faculties it’s simple to comprehend how kids are wanting to learn new content material that features every of them, so I hope all of us can take that accountability significantly and supply them comforting, thrilling and memorable tales they will maintain on to for a lifetime.

What’s subsequent for Juana Medina?

That is an awesome query! I am engaged on Juana and Lucas 2, wrapping up a candy undertaking with the Library of Congress and Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, and dealing a pair different initiatives.

I am additionally, very slowly, determining what it means to be a brand new mom of twins, which to this point, regardless of the sleep deprivation, has been probably the most thrilling journey I’ve lived.

Associated useful resource

Watch the video interview with Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera on our sister website, Colorín Colorado.

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