A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Pablo Cartaya'sThe Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora is a textured portrayal of a Cuban American family and community grappling with change. Named 2018 Pura Belpré Honor Book by the American Library Association, it includes plentiful Spanish phrases and dialogue but makes them easily accessible to non-Spanish speakers -- and helps illustrate how language and meaning are entwined. Family, tradition, identity, and navigating change are key themes. The decline and death of a central character is a strong emotional thread throughout the story.
What's the story?
THE EPIC FAIL OF ARTURO ZAMORA recounts his tumultuous summer at age 13. The heart of Arturo's sprawling Cuban American family is his beloved Abuela (grandmother) and La Cocina de la Isla, the Miami restaurant she opened nearly 20 years ago. His high hopes for summer soon turn to dismay and anxiety: His new job at the restaurant turns out to be as a lowly dishwasher, his stomach flips whenever he's near newly arrived family friend Carmen, Abuela is falling ill, and a flashy, underhanded developer wants to replace La Cocina with a high-rise. Sifting through letters, poems, photos, and music from his late grandfather, Arturo takes to heart his words on family, faith, and courage, and starts to write a new chapter for himself and his family.
Is it any good?
Pablo Cartaya digs deep beneath the surface of debates over gentrification with this rich, warm debut novel about a 13-year-old helping his family find their way forward in an ever-changing world. The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora is about identity: where we come from and the choices we make about who we want to become. As Arturo learns more about his Cuban American family's past, he grows more confident of his own voice and becomes a key voice in his family and community's discussion of how the neighborhood may change and grow.
Cartaya creates a well-rounded cast of authentic characters, from Arturo's lively family to his entertaining friends. A mix of narrative styles and blend of languages make communication styles a central focus of attention. Cartaya does so much so well that his only false note -- the pushy real estate developer, a barely developed cartoon villain -- is a disappointing distraction from an otherwise engaging story.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the use of language in The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora. Why do you think the author uses two languages instead of just one and incorporates Twitter messages, letters, and dialogue in scripted format? How do these style choices affect the way you relate to the story?
Do you enjoy courage, as Arturo's grandfather encouraged?
How does your family tackle and resolve important group decisions?
- Author: Pablo Cartaya
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Friendship, Great Boy Role Models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: May 16, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 12
- Number of pages: 256
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
- Last updated: March 19, 2019
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