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The Wild Ones by Megan Lacera and Jorge Lacera

Updated: May 23

Megan Lacera and Jorge Lacera share The Wild Ones (Children’s Book Press), a heartwarming and epic tale of four best friends who turn to the mythical monsters from their respective cultures to help them save the only home they've ever known.


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About the book: The Wild Ones by Megan Lacera and Jorge Lacera. Published by Children's Book Press.


From the creators of Zombies Don't Eat Veggies! comes a heartwarming and epic tale of four best friends who turn to the mythical monsters from their respective cultures to help them save the only home they've ever known.


Meet Valentina and her best friends Jasmine, Andy, and Xander. They've lived in the Wild Oaks apartment building their entire lives. They are the Wild Ones!Legend has it, there's a monstruo lurking deep in the forest of their town. No one has ever seen it, but the Wild Ones believe it exists. But something's going on that's more menacing than any monstruo--greedy developers want to tear down their home. The Wild Ones know what they have to do: find the monstruo and convince it to help them save their home. Come join the Wild Ones on this epic adventure!



Episode Transcript:


INTRO


Matthew: Welcome to the Children’s Book Podcast. I’m Matthew.


I am a teacher, a librarian, a writer, and a fan of kids. 


Time for a nostalgia hit. Let’s gather a group of friends bonded over comics and monsters. Let’s add some trouble threatening the community. Let’s band together to save our space.


Today I welcome Megan and Jorge Lacera back to the podcast.


Megan and Jorge’s new picture book, The Wild Ones (Children’s Book Press), is a heartwarming and epic tale of four best friends who turn to the mythical monsters from their respective cultures to help them save the only home they've ever known.


Let’s step into my conversation with Megan Lacera and Jorge Lacera. Ready? Here we go.



INTERVIEW


Jorge: I'm Jorge Lacera. My pronouns are he, him, and I'm the co-creator and illustrator of The Wild Ones.


Megan: Okay, that was well I'm Meg I'm Megan Lacera. My pronouns are she, her. I am the co-creator of The Wild Ones. And that's it. 


Matthew: It's, I mean, it's more than it, but I know, you know, that, you know, I'm not going to let you like not feel all the love and praise that you should feel for your books. You know, what a big deal Zombies Don't Eat Veggies made our state book award list. You had Thousands of kids reading that book and valuing and loving that book and still requesting that book. And here you are to talk about The Wild Ones. And I'm so glad, um, that you have another book together, that you have another book with Lee and Low.


Um, before I jump in and describe it, would you mind describing what The Wild Ones is to a reader that hasn't come across it yet? 


Megan: Yeah, go for it. Okay. Okay. So The Wild Ones is about four best friends who all live in the Wild Oaks apartment building. And they love comic books and monsters. And one day they find the terrible news that their building has been sold to developers and it's going to be turned into offices.


So they're like, we cannot let this happen. This is our home. They come up with all these plans, um, to try to, to stop it. And then none of them work. Um, but there is a legend that there's a monster that lives at the end of their forest. at the end of their woods. At the end. There's a monster that lives in the forest at the edge of their town.

And they're like, Hey, maybe that monster can save us. And so, uh, they head out into the woods to see if that monster actually exists, which they believe it does. Um, and hope the monster can scare the developers away.


Matthew: Yeah, that was 


Megan: good. I 


Matthew: thought it was great. I think that, um, I mean, for me, it felt like, I think I even said this when I shared over social media, but it felt like there were a lot of nods to different. pop culture references, particularly movies. Um, and maybe that's just what you get when you write a story about a group of kids doing stuff.


I think you and I both were raised on stories like that, and I think stories like that continue to connect with kids. I see elements of The Karate Kid, and of Stand By Me, and of Stranger Things, was that intentional in the art, in the story, or was it just your, I don't know, part of this larger collective of telling communal pack type stories of children?


Jorge: Well, I think it started with the intention of wanting to tell a story about kids. having autonomy and being able to be agents in the world, uh, affecting the world and, and focusing on the kids really specifically. And once you start to have that conversation, I think it was a conversation that Megan and I had along with our editor, Jessica Echevarria, at Lee Lo.


And immediately, like we, all of us, because we're of a certain age, grew up watching these 80s movies and it just came up. Um, and you know, we took bits and pieces from all of those, but really what it started from was that. Sort of core sort of feeling of kids being autonomous doing something Without necessarily having to rely on adults or really, you know, and yeah adults specifically there's adults in the story But they're there more for they're there to show some support, but also there it's exposition They're like our place is getting torn down.


What are we gonna do? And it's really up to the kids to try to figure something out. 


Megan: Yeah, and those the references that you Called out are for sure You For sure there. Um, all those movies like the Goonies and E. T. and, um, where there's like a touch of magic, but it's very real, um, issues that the kids and families are dealing with.

Um, we really love those, those, those movies. And we're like, wow, we'd love to do something that's, uh, current for kids today. 


Matthew: Yeah. And you made the monsters. I mean, there is the monster in that corporation that's trying to gentrify that neighborhood. But the literal monsters in the book you made as heroes, you made as solutions.


Each child is seeing, well, if we had this help of this monster, They could save us because of this reason. Or I feel affinity toward this monster because they could save us for that reason. And, um, I guess I wonder what, where that came from to say, what if we had this extra bigger than the child thing that was there as a force of protection, not just.


Just as a force of destruction, of pulling together, not just tearing down. 


Jorge: Yeah, so I think, sort of, I, I, at the inception stage of this, what I, I, I'm, I'm, I'm drawing, right, alongside Megan as she's writing, and some of the, the references that I was pulling from were, you know, my, so my dad had like a stack of these old, uh, magazines that were from, uh, Columbia.


Uh, and they were distributed all throughout South America, I later found out, but the magazines always dealt with like really weird supernatural, like, topics. So it was like, UFO sightings, or like, are angels real, you know? Um, and so there was, that was one sort of, uh, input that I wanted to try to bring to the table.


And then another one is old, old comic books. My dad had, uh, grew up reading these old comic books, sorry, called the Kaliman, and they're printed on, on like newsprint. And it's like, really old, and it's got the sort of, um, you know, RGB printing dots and everything on them, and So that was like my first exposure to comic books and then obviously I like then Like glommed on to them as like I like I love comics Uh as a kid, I started going to the spinner rack at the local pharmacy grabbing my copies.

That's i'm aging myself That's okay. Damn. That was 


Matthew: yeah x men uncanny x men was always what I was grabbing. 


Jorge: Yeah, exactly I was like I would kind of grab everything to be like um What's going on because I oftentimes Anyway, the spinner racks you didn't know what was going on because you were getting them out of sequence Sometimes you'd miss a week Anyway, each comic was a new experience.


But what I, um, started, I became a bit of a super obsessive nerd about comics at a young age. And one of the things I discovered was that there was this lineage of monsters and superheroes. And what happened was before, so after the Comics Code of Authority went into effect, a lot of publishers had to change the concept of their comics to go from.


Um, being about horror, like if you look at EC Comics, which are really horrific and science fiction, and they had all this stuff in it that was really, um, you know, intended to be sensationalist, but marketed towards kids, the Comic Code Authority came in and changed that, and so forced a lot of publishers to publish different types of stories, and what ended up happening to the publisher that eventually became Marvel, is that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, along with other artists, started making these monster comics that were really more focused and inspired by B movies of the 1950s and 60s, uh, really 50s.

And so then there was all this like cool stuff and you could see if you look back on it now there's a direct lineage because there you could tell that they were experimenting with the format that eventually became the Marvel sort of way, the method, but it was early and rude and not quite refined and I love those comics.


I love the monsters in them. And so, as I was drawing, I was thinking about that, and then I just, to me, there's like a clear connection. Monsters can be heroes. Monsters, as sort of supernatural elements, almost like force of nature, can come in and help. And if the kids are really steeped in that, like I was, then it wouldn't be a big leap to say, like, Oh, I'm gonna reach out to this monster that almost feels like a deity from my culture to try to help out.


Versus, like, you know, I don't know, trying to call the police or something, you know? 


Matthew: I think it's that connection. I'm glad you put that language there. Cause I did, it was on the tip of my tongue, but I couldn't find it. That it is treating these monsters as if they are deities. We believe in this thing.


And we believe in this, this, this figure strong enough that. if our situation feels dire enough, which is also, I understand this is structures of comics, but if our situation feels dire enough, then a natural response would be for me to call on this deity, this, this, this creature for help. And I also like that you're not pulling in this way, although the art looks like that.


I love that dotted, I forget what you called it. It's the, it's the style that I like. I know and recognize to be comics, but I don't have the language to say that's what it looks like. But the newsprint is what you're saying. I can feel that texture of it. That these kids aren't drawing from, these are the characters from these comics that I like that are the best.

It's, it's bigger than that. It's more transcendent than that. It's, um, this cultural connection that they have. And, never one is better than the other, but rather, well, this one reflects me. This is who I hope shows up. This one reflects me. This is who I help, uh, shows up. And I think that Megan, through your words and Jorge through your, uh, the, the pacing and storytelling you do through your art, you do a really wonderful job of, of not allowing or not, not, not allowing space for those kids to want to compare or compete with one another.


but rather always keeping it tight enough that we are singularly focused on here's our problem. It's a shared problem. We need to solve this problem together. Whatever the answer is, it's in that cave. We have different imaginations of what's in that cave. But we all agree it's in that cave, right? Right. I think that, that, that, that keeps things really tight without making it feel rushed.


Megan: Oh, thank you. Yeah. I'm glad that it worked that way. Um, and yeah, that was a very big thing that like they, there is conflict and that they don't agree which one it is, but it's not a matter of one's better than the other. It's really just which one's in the forest. Um, and it's, you know, I want it to be mine, not because again, not because it's better.


It's just, that's the one I feel that. that connection to. Um, and we got to tell you, we, we spent a lot of time thinking about what these monsters represent. Like, what are the monsters symbolize? And, um, like for us, it's really about those like unique parts of yourselves. which is culture, which is where you're from, which is your family, which all these different pieces that make up you, um, sort of in a giant way, you know, because it's not just that they're from the culture, it's also like they like similar things, like Val, uh, her favorite monster is Latunda, who is Colombian, um, or Ecuadorian as well.


Um, but, Latunda also loves reggaeton, which is the type of music that Val loves, and, uh, she loves chocolate arepas, which so does Latunda. Like, it's, it's, like, the stuff that sort of makes you all, all those likes and things that, and dislikes, that make you who you are. 


Matthew: It's, it's not just, we're gonna believe in this, creature's strength or ability to win this thing over.


But it's also watch me eat my cereal like this monster or watch me read like this monster or watch me pick up space or wear my clothes or do whatever. Watch me walk through the world like this monster. You're right. It's, it's inhabiting something much, much bigger than I'm going to call on this far away thing to solve my problem.


It's much more without saying it, it's much more I am as much that monster as I am the belief in that monster. And so that's what we're going to have solved this problem. 


Megan: Yes. And I have to point one other thing because it's my, I think it's kind of, uh, maybe, maybe not subtle, but I don't know if people catch it right away, but the monsters, so the monsters do come spoiler alert.


Um, they don't come until the kids actually say they don't think they're coming and they think that the building's going to be torn down and they go, Hey, you know, why didn't the monster come? Um, and Val actually leads them to say, well, you know what I believe in? What I really believe in is us, the wild ones.


Um, you know, nothing's going to tear us apart. And it's not until they say that, that what they really believe in is themselves and each other, that those monsters show up. And it's, that's why it's like, that's the trigger for the monsters really showing up is we believe in who we are. 


Matthew: It's also the trick of your book in that, I'll say as a reader, as this reader, I read it.


It's very clear those monsters show up in the world of this book, but there's also a read of this that says no They never showed up. They showed up within those kids as I read it I had that thought of like wait, are the monsters really there? No in the existence of this picture book They are definitely really there But I I think somehow maybe it's just that magic of picture books that we like to talk about There's something there's a read of this book that Those monsters really were just what was waiting untapped within those kids all along where the way we unlock that untapped resource of ourselves is doing a very, very difficult task of truly believing in ourselves.


Again, I say that as an individual that realizes it is not easy to, to, to sincerely believe in our own abilities. So often we're believing in other people and well, with them or with this other thing, I can do this thing, but not really believing I, I am the answer to my desires. I am the answer to all the problems that I have.


Jorge: Yeah. There's, there's, there's definitely. You know, that reading is really actually interesting, and I think that we endeavor to make the books so that there can be a lot of interpretations, potentially, to what's going on, and, um, I know that people have related to the story of Moe and zombies in a variety of different ways that were surprising to us, but then make sense in retrospect, right?


When you're making the thing, you're sort of like, like, for me, as a, as a comic book and monster loving, I was like, probably, I would have been right there with, uh, with the, with the Wild Ones, I kept telling Megan, I'm like, Because there was a potential for that to happen. And as we were writing the story, it was just like, no, we need, these monsters need to show up and they need to be real and act in the world.


Cause as a kid, that's what I want. And I was weak enough to have enough monster stuff in it. And if you look at the book, the last like four Spreads are, are two page spreads of monsters. I'm like, I just, I need to satisfy the 14, you know, the, the 12, whatever year old, the Horhito that is like, I need monsters in there, please.

Uh, but no, I do think that Megan then came back with that, that hook, that, that sort of, the belief in themselves is what ultimately unlocks this. And it is a difficult thing. 


Megan: It's I think it's probably the hard, maybe in the top three hardest things to do in life, right? Because it's so easy to say sort of the, the, the Disney fied version of believe in yourself.


Um, what does that really mean? You know? Um, and I think it's, I'm still working on it. I feel like I've certainly gotten a lot better as I've gotten older, but it's still hard and it's not really until you are in, you know, really difficult circumstances or a challenge or something that you really, you know, you realize, okay, I, can I depend on myself?

Can I believe in myself? Um, and you know, I think the answer is always you can, if you, if, if you try hard enough, you can, but it's hard. It's real. It's, it's really hard because there's a lot of outside pressures, um, in the world that like you, like you said, that, um, sort of tell you to believe in what other people are telling you, or what society's telling you, or whatever it is.


So it's, it's, I think it's a lifelong, uh, challenge. 


Jorge: Another thing I kind of want to point out, too, is that, um, going back to the idea of being a wild one is, also means, like, embracing and understanding where you're from, and seeing that as a power. I think that's connected to sort of the belief in yourself, because I think sometimes Um, you know, we've had this conversation about foods or the like, you know, yucky or yum type of thing where sometimes cultural foods carry a different sort of like stigma or like, Oh, what is that?


That smells weird or whatever. The idea that the kids embrace that, share that with the monster, that then, you know, I think sometimes there's a societal sanding off that can happen of some of these things that makes it difficult to then, you know, Find that belief in yourself, but if you were to sort of embrace all of it and sort of excavate all of it Then maybe there's some power there.

There definitely is power. 


Matthew: Yeah. Yeah, I think to the interesting thing that this conversation is causing me to reflect on Is that when we the act of believing in ourselves isn't a sort of one and done thing you act out of a true belief in yourself, maybe in this moment in these circumstances, but that's not a guarantee that it'll show up again.


It's work every time. It's a muscle. You have to work every time. It took me well into my thirties, maybe even into my forties to believe that being a highly sensitive person, wasn't a weakness. That was very, very hard. And I, I hear you, Jorge saying that like, well, society has, has really helped with that. I also am in a profession.


where so many teachers are very loud, boisterous performers. And that's, that's true. Uh, and I think I am, when I have that great connection with kids, I can really let down my guard and be that way. Um, but I've also been told at times by different people in different circumstances that I need to grow a thicker skin or, or, you know, Whatever language is used to say, uh, stop thinking about that so much or, or being as sensitive to it as, as you are there, it took me a long time.


And, and, and a couple of very good leaders, um, principals and bosses telling me that that sensitivity can actually be a great superpower. Cause it makes you be able to connect very deeply in a way that. Or deeply and earnestly, maybe in a way that other people might not be able to. But wow, that's really hard.


It's really hard to believe also that the person you are is the person you're supposed to be. A very comic, I want to say trope, but I can hear the negative connotation of trope, but it's, it's not. The comics that we've been reading all along have told us, no, no, no. You're exactly. Is that not what professor X was trying to tell us all that, that you're exceptional the way you are.


And tapping into that thing that sort of others you, may feel like it others you, um, may be the very thing that'll change the world. Exactly. Yeah. 


Megan: Yeah, I think that's such a big thing. I mean, I think that's in this book, and it's in Zombies, and I'm sure it'll probably be in some, in all of our work. It's in 


Matthew: you, right?

It's in you, which is why it comes out in your work. 


Megan: Yes. I cut 


Matthew: you off. I'm sorry. I just wanted to confirm that it's you. 


Megan: It's true. I mean, it's true like for, for all different reasons, but I'm also a sensitive person and, and, and very, you know, people who love me have, have. You know, it can be harder in the world, right?


Like, it can be harder. So it's like, ah, yeah, you know, be less sensitive or, you know, uh, uh, why are you responding so much to that or whatever it is, but like, you can't just get rid of it. And it is, it is a, a superpower. Um, it is, it's, it's something that helps me to really like, connect with, with people and a much deeper level that I think a lot of people allow themselves to, um, you know, when I, this book is about friendship.


When I form a friendship, it's a friendship. It's, you know, it's a very important thing. relationship, and I can be very sensitive to, to people's needs or desires or what's really going on with them. I think that's how we are in our, you know, relationship. I mean, that's only one way to be different or unique or special, but I think believing in those things that are not, um, you know, uh, what's the word?


Not even, I don't know. That's genuinely thought of as powerful doesn't mean that it's, it's not. Um, and a lot of times, Those things are even more powerful. It's just, uh, I don't know. I don't know what I'm saying, Matthew, except that I agree with what you're saying. Well, 


Jorge: I'll jump in and say that there's a part in the book where the bullies, like, make it really explicit that they don't agree with anything that the wild ones are doing and that they believe, like, basically down to their core that they should not be there, um, with their food and themselves and the monster stuff.


Like, pretty much everything that they see as an identity. And one, one strong choice that I think, um, we made. was that the kids, um, basically don't, they are very, uh, almost immediately hostile towards that behavior, and they don't back down. 


Matthew: And I 


Jorge: think that, um, there was something really powerful about, like, saying, like, these kids are not even, like, remotely even questioning whether that, what they're doing is the right thing or not.


It's sort of like, oh, please, just get out of our face, you know, let us do our thing, you annoying bullies. And I think that there's, There's something sometimes when we, I know that when I'm putting together the books and even sort of the ending of the book with the, with the monsters coming in and everything, it's a bit of a, like a totem or something or like a, like you're, you're sort of saying like, you know, I'm, I'm, I'm sure I was, I, I have memories of being, uh, bullied for not speaking English or saying the right thing when I was a kid.


Um, and so, In this book, it's like, okay, that's how I would have wanted to be, you know, like the wild ones, like stepping up and being like and pushing back and being like back off or, you know, having that agency. It goes back to that sort of impetus of the story of like, these kids are out there and they're not just waiting for stuff to happen.


They're, they're pushing back. They're, they're doing their thing. You know, they're bringing their food to the monster's cave. You know, they're going out there and they're going for it. And I think that there's something powerful about kids seeing that, uh, and the need for that. 


Matthew: I think that is the kids. As a teacher of almost two decades, I feel with confidence that I can say that is the children that we have today.


They beautifully, at least again, the ones, the ones around me, um, they, they just seem to feel like, I wrote you a question that I'm not going to say because we talked around it. I wrote you about, Sort of why and how you would approach the topic of gentrification. Uh, in this conversation, it occurs to me that my students.


would question immediately if someone was saying your home, that's not gonna be your home anymore, we're gonna take that back. They would question who owns what, what gives someone the right to own, what gives someone the right to, um, displace another person. This entire conversation, uh, has reminded me, the memory of my students has affirmed for me that there's There's no doubt that, that, that again, the children that I teach, uh, I don't want to speak for all children.


The children that I teach are just as much the wild ones as the characters in your book, that they would not hesitate to step in and act. I don't need parents to affirm that what I think is wrong is wrong. I know it's wrong. I don't need parents to affirm that we should be asking ourselves, what can we do?


That agency, uh, that autonomy is there with these children. And that I think is hopefully maybe because of people our age who are working really hard to give that to children. What a beautiful thing to be able to come out of this conversation, thinking a lot about the grownups that are raising the kids that I teach.

Thank you for that. I wasn't thinking of that, but 


Megan: I'm glad that you centered this 


Matthew: topic. 


Megan: It's amazing to hear. I'm so glad to hear that. And also just it, I mean, you're right. It makes me think of, you know, our, we started talking about our son at the beginning of the, but like our, our son this past week, we were at, um, a place where there was mostly adults that he didn't know, mostly adults.


It may be him and one other kid. I don't know. Um, and he didn't really like it. Let me put it this way. He didn't really like it. Um, and it was trying to figure out what was going on. And at the, when, you know, we, we talked to him afterwards and he was like, well, I just didn't feel that there was mutual respect.

And, you know, Meaning 


Matthew: between being a child in that space, there wasn't. Yes. Yeah. 


Megan: Yeah. Yes. And, you know, as adults, like we, we don't act like that, but we also were not surprised that a lot of the adults were not paying any attention to him. Right. Um, it was like, okay, yeah. You know, unfortunately, you know, uh, some people can be like that, but that he would say that so clearly, Hey, I want mutual respect, um, is really amazing and wonderful.


And I think. Uh, I don't know, it kind of brings tears to my eyes because, like, as you're saying, you know, kids know that that's what it should be, actually, you know, they shouldn't have to wait until they're 18 or 25 to get mutual respect. Well, 


Jorge: like the kids in the wild ones, they know, kids know, I mean, they have a very clear sense of right and wrong.


There's, it's like, they haven't developed a layer of cruft bull, bull crap. Sorry, I was about to Edit, edit. They haven't developed that yet. Right. So it's like, it's really obvious, right. It to them. And in the same way that the kids in the wilderness are like, and no, this is like a terrible thing. And the parents are sort of like, Oh no, what are we going to do?

And the kids are like, no, you got to do something. 


Matthew: Well, then let me, let me ask you this as we wrap our conversation, because we are right here talking about those kids. Uh, so let me ask you that I'll see a library full of children tomorrow soon. Um, is there a message, Megan, that I can share to those readers, to those kids from you?


Megan: Well, I think, uh, yeah, so being a wild one means believing in yourself, believing in your friends and believing where you come from. And I hope that you will always be able to believe in those things. Um, even when it's really hard, even if you have, you know, a day or a week or a month where you don't feel like you do, I hope you'll come back to it and do the hard work to keep believing in those things.


Matthew: Yeah. Jorge, is there a message I can bring to them from you? I 


Jorge: mean, for me, it's more about like, uh, You know, the books that we make is just sort of like a little bit behind the scenes for the kids. Like, you know, this book was put together by Megan and myself and our son Kai. It's very much a family affair.

It's like a cottage, literally a cottage industry kind of book thing. And if you enjoy it, go check out Zombies Don't Eat Veggies, but they're the real human beings who care behind, behind this book.



OUTRO


Matthew: Thank you to Megan Lacera and Jorge Lacera for joining me on The Children’s Book Podcast. 


You can pick up your own copy of The Wild Ones (Children’s Book Press) wherever books are found. Consider supporting independent bookstores by shopping through Bookshop.org. You can also use my Bookshop affiliate link by clicking on the book’s name in our show notes.


Our podcast logo was created by Duke Stebbins (https://stebs.design/). 


Our music is by Podington Bear. 


Podcast hosting by Libsyn. 


You can support the show and buy me a coffee at www.matthewcwinner.com.


And on that note…


Be well. And read on.


End Of Episode

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