Have you found a reason to smile today?
This post is a little different from my usual comic book themed post. But this story really stuck out to me and I really wanted to share it.
Written and Illustrated by educator/artist Javier Cruz Winnik; “A Reason To Smile” is a great motivational children’s book about a little Puerto Rican girl from NYC who always finds the bright side when presented with life’s challenges.
I first picked up this book at a convention as a gift for my little cousin.
The graphic novel series was first published in 2014 as a children’s book, with an intent to inspire positivity, that even adults can find intriguing.
A Reason To Smile follows 10 year old Luiza Brillante on her many adventures as she explores the city and does whatever it takes to help others in need. Luiza is a child that is capable of handling situations. Not only is she super brave, generous and smart, but she is extremely observant. She is a young city girl that loves to people watch and is always aware of her surroundings.
While reading this uplifting story, it reminded me that even as an adult we should always look at the brightside and always remember to smile. That you never really know what someone else may be going through.
There are so many possibilities that life has to offer, and so many reasons to smile.
It touches upon so many of lifes lessons.
“Are you brave enough to try something different?”
Are you brave enough to take chances and go for what you want in life?
That ultimately helping others is the key to happiness.
“If you can make someone else smile, what can be better than that?
I found this book so powerful, and to be such a positive message that young readers and adults alike can benefit from. Also having a young latina protagonist is super important for young kids that may feel underrepresented, and can now see a character and say hey she looks like me!
“A Reason to Smile!” Vol.2 is a continuation of the journey of Luiza Brillante as she tries to enjoy the place of her birth, New York City! In Volume 1, Luiza helped other people through their adversities, but Volume 2 shows what happens when Luiza has to deal with her own adversities.” -LearningCurv
I was excited to pick up the second book as well for my little cousin, as we were so impressed with the first.
Published in 2016, book volume two delves a little more into Luiza’s personal mishaps.
It touched upon important values like family, and having a sense of community.
Book 2 Inspires creativity and imagination, and all the possibilities life has to offer.
The pages are full of vibrant color, and diverse characters in the lively streets of NYC.
It features a good representation of growing up in NYC with friends from all different backgrounds, cultures, and personalities.
In this story we meet Luiza’s friends, and Luiza deals with problem solving and issues such as bullying. Luiza has a love for all creatures and she makes friends with animals. She also has a very immense imagination, and we meet some of her imaginary friends that travel with her on her many adventures.
I highly recommend this book to any parent or anyone looking for a little motivational push.
Javier is a teacher who believes in inspiring others, and pushing boundaries. He tries to remain positive and gives great art advice to fellow artists.
His characters are inspired from his childhood; growing up in a puerto rican household in NYC with a diverse group of friends. His characters stem from influences from all different cultural backgrounds and personalities.
I really enjoyed A Reason To Smile, and hope that in these dark times it can help inspire some people. Javier tells us more about his book, the LearningCurv, and his artwork in our interview.
Tell me a little about the Learning Curv.
For years, I’ve heard people say “you’ve got such a talent, I wish I was born with this ability.” I always have to remind people that I’ve been doing what I do for almost 30 years and it’s been a journey learning to get to where I am. We walk and talk pretty well enough. Imagine if you were drawing as much as you walked and talked.. right? That’s what The Learning Curv is. Thats me.
When did you first decide that you wanted to create your own children’s book?
While working with elementary children, I realized that there were stories in the school about almost everyone, but none starring Puerto Rican characters. I realized that rather than try to keep banging my head against the wall trying to get into the comic industry, that I write and illustrate my own story. I’ve written as a kid and drawn all my life and since I could tell a different story, I felt compelled to do so. I wanted to write a story that shows each and every one of us can be our own hero in our own lives without the need of superpowers, a magical amulet, or a supernatural connection. Everyone can tell the stories we’ve seen already about the superhero who saves the day. It was time for something different.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career, and how has that person changed your work?
Oddly enough, my cousin has had the biggest influence on my career. I really loved what he was drawing and how he was doing it when we were kids and it helped inspire me to want to do the same. If that inspiration wasn’t there as a kid I’d have never began this journey.
What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?
Watching good stories or listening to good music can help keep the fuel from needing recharging. Being at comic conventions as often as I am (at least once a month) helps as well. Seeing all of the different art and talking to so many fans helps keep me inspired.
Describe your typical work routine. (How did you get into teaching/art/comics?) Conventions etc.
I’ve loved art since I was first introduced to cartoons back in the early 80s. It helped inspire my career path and then a friend asked me to assist him at an afterschool program and the rest is history. The conventions became a byproduct of wanting first hand experience. Since I couldn’t get work as a comic artist, I decided to try to sell my work on my own and felt that being around other professionals would help with becoming a better artist.
Does the story draw from your own personal experiences as a child, and daily encounters?
“A Reason to Smile!” Is inspired by my experiences as well as myself. I always try to find the good in something or the bright side of a situation since there are so many terrible things in our world. I need that to stay afloat sometimes so I know there are others that need to be reaffirmed in the good they do or wish they could see, so this series helps promote that. My desire to promote positivity and beauty in the nastiness of the world we can easily see is highly motivating.
Do you intend to keep the series going, and if so for how long? Will we see Luiza age?
I am finishing up a beginning readers book to help bring the youngest readers into the world of reading and while that is being illustrated, I’ll be writing a chapter book for those who may not be into graphic novels. Once those are done, volume 3 will be started and I can’t wait to draw that one!
This story can also inspire adults, was that intentional? How do you go about dealing with life’s challenges?
I wanted a book that kids could access while giving adults food for thought as well. The more we can ingest in our entertainment that nourishes our souls, I hope, the better our world will be. I try to be the change I want to see so that is the direction that pushes me to keep walking this journey.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d been given?
Do it right and the way you interpret that will be your style.
What has been your most amazing or touching moment you’ve experienced as an educator/author?
There was a child who enjoyed my book so much that she asked me if they would make my book into a cartoon. To think that kids would want to see my story on tv was an amazing moment in my career.
What has the overall reaction to the book been like?
It’s been quite mixed because no one has seen a book like this before. People tend to stick to specific genres when creating or enjoying their entertainment. I decided to put a picture book and a graphic novel together. Because of that, some people think the book is meant solely for kids. It gets pigeonholed but I hope to push people’s boundaries further than they were before they met me.
What has been the most rewarding project in your professional career – in or out of comics – and why?
Creating Luiza Brillante and her crew has brought me a huge amount of pride. Knowing I have a well of stories I can write or illustrate is very empowering, knowing that people like what you do and want to see more. Once the current batch of books I have are sold, I’ll have sold 1700 books and I didn’t think I’d have been able to move that many units.
What age group do you recommend A Reason To Smile To?
It’s all an all ages story, focused on children but written and illustrated with a sophistication that adults will enjoy.
Javier Cruz Winnik