Juana Medina delves into her own childhood in Colombia for her first book Juana and Lucas, winner of the 2017 Pura Belpre Award, and this sequel, Juana and Lucas: Big Problemas. Life for Juana and for Lucas, her canine sidekick and best friend, borders on perfection in a city that smells of eucalyptus and fresh fruit with good neighbors who always welcome her into their home as long as she takes off her muddy sneakers before stepping on their carpet. Mami, her mother, is pretty fantastic, and her abuelos are about the most wonderful people who ever existed, even though they have existed for a very long time.
That happy life takes on an uneasy quality when Mami brings home a new amigo named Luis. She gets a new hairdo, begins to wear more perfume and lipstick, and sing more canciones. With Mami spending more time with Luis, Juana finds herself shuffled off to relatives. The relatives are fun, but still. Luis teaches Juana about taking pictures and music which makes him more likeable, but still.
This is a cheerful book about acclimating to a new stepfather, a fairly common mirror experience for children or for their friends. Spanish words and Colombian relationships make it a window into another culture. The ending author’s note tells that Juana Medina got into trouble at school for drawing cartoon versions of her teachers. Thankfully, she has held onto that skill to illustrate this delightful book.