A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Incorporates Spanish phrases and dialogue with enough context to be understood by readers unfamiliar with the language. Discusses Cuban independence leader and writer José Martí and his Versos Sencillos, Cuban migration to Miami, and the use of poetry for self-expression and understanding. Includes recipes and author's note with more history.
Very strong emphasis on family bonds and heritage, collaboration, teamwork, and balancing different perspectives. Places high value on love and faith. Shows importance of standing up and speaking out on behalf of yourself and others. Overcoming fear and finding courage feels wonderful. Ideas and thoughts are sometimes better expressed in one language than another. Learning can require time -- things that don't make sense at first may be more meaningful later. Even within a community with strong shared values, people can have very different opinions and priorities.
Positive Role Models
Arturo appreciates his family, their history, and their role in the community. He's thoughtful and observant, absorbing lessons from people he respects and admires, and greets challenges with creativity and passion. Family members are close-knit and deeply invested in nurturing each other and the family business. Disagreement and squabbling is embraced as part of the process of group decision-making. Abuela's warmth and affection for others leads to strong relationships.
Violence & Scariness
Security guards take child to holding cell after he disrupts a public event.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some romantic interest, brief kiss.
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Products & Purchases
Mentions of a few brands including Skittles, Hummer, Jet Ski, KitchenAid, and media (FaceTime, Twitter, Instagram).
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink champagne at business lunch.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.