Texas Book Festival Q&A with Juana Medina


Juana Medina is the author of Juana and Lucas: Big Problemas.

TBF: Why did you write your new book? What was your inspiration? 

Juana Medina: I’d been brainstorming with my team at Candlewick about this book for a while. It’s the second in the series and there were some ideas floating, but nothing was tangible yet. Then I visited a school in Central Falls, RI. Where there was a very festive environment around the reading of Juana & Lucas. Most children were wanting to learn more about the autobiographical aspects of this book — was it hard for me to learn The English; had I truly grown up in Colombia (like many of their parents); was recess really my favorite class at school… There was laughter and the encounter was rather joyous. During a tiny lull, a young boy approached me quietly, and with a very solemn voice he said: “I’m sorry for your loss.” He was referring to the one line in the book, where I mention my father dying in a fire, when I was a baby. From his demeanor, I could tell how genuine his sentiments were. It also made me think how he must have gone through a difficult loss, in order to empathize so deeply with me on this. The space wasn’t conducive for him to open up and I regret that our conversation was rather short. But this truly moved me. It also made me realize, it was time for me to open up about feelings surrounding my father’s death and having my mom remarry. If anything, to write about an experience a good number of us, manage to go through as children. This encounter fueled the book. Hence my dedication of Juana & Lucas: Big Problemas, to this boy.


TBF: What’s the last book you read, loved, and can’t stop recommending? Why is it so good?

Juana Medina: I just reread Momo by Michael Ende. I found it as powerful as I did when I was a child. I wish this book would magically resurface at every household, especially now that we seem to be consumed by little glowing screens.


TBF: What’s the first book you remember reading? Who gave it to you?

Juana Medina: Before I learned to read on my own, I read countless books by proxy (my older cousin would either read to me or augment and share her own version of stories) with tremendous eagerness. This is something I remember more vividly than the first book I read on my own. The Little Princess was the first book I remember my cousin retelling to me — it blew my mind! When I finally learned to read on my own, I became a ferocious reader, often being gifted books by my grandparents.


Juana Medina is one of 300 authors who will appear at the 2019 Texas Book Festival which takes place October 26-27th 2019 in downtown Austin. The Festival is free and open to the public! Check out all of this year’s authors.