The importance of family is vividly portrayed as Arturo tells the story of life in a Cuban-American community. Seventh grade thirteen year old boys have changing interests and Arturo is having a tough time with his sudden infatuation with Carmen, a Spanish girl and life long friend of the Zamora family. She and her dad are visiting after the death of her own mother and are like a cousin and uncle to Arturo.
Life for the Zamora’s centers around their beloved restaurant, La Cocina de la Isla. Arturo’s grandmother (Abuela) started the business after coming over from Cuba, His mom is the head chef. You are a part of their family whenever you dine in this mouth watering place in the town of Canal Grove, Florida. Big Sunday dinners never sounded so fabulous.
But all is not well as a sleazy developer wants to bulldoze the property for a high rise residential and entertainment center. Arturo and Carmen plot to stop this from happening. They learn about standing up for what you believe in and about each other. The story is both heartwarming and funny, but most of all it shows an MG book can succeed without bullies or divorce. You’ll want to hug this family.
PUBLICATION DATE: 2017 PAGE COUNT: 256
FULL PLOT (From Amazon) For Arturo, summertime in Miami means playing basketball until dark, sipping mango smoothies, and keeping cool under banyan trees. And maybe a few shifts as junior lunchtime dishwasher at Abuela’s restaurant. Maybe. But this summer also includes Carmen, a cute girl who moves into Arturo’s apartment complex and turns his stomach into a deep fryer. He almost doesn’t notice the smarmy land developer who rolls into town and threatens to change it. Arturo refuses to let his family and community go down without a fight, and as he schemes with Carmen, Arturo discovers the power of poetry and protest through untold family stories and the work of José Martí.
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: THE EPIC FAIL of ARTURO ZAMORA by Pablo Cartaya
- The food. I read this over many evenings and found my stomach pulling me into the kitchen. Many of the recipes are in the back of the book. I’m destined to be 10 pounds heavier by the end of summer.
- Arturo’s conversations with Carmen are spot on hilarious. It’s the same thing every 13 year old boy goes through when his only thought after saying something to the girl he likes is “Why did I just say that?”
- I had not heard of Cuban poet and journalist, José Martí. He had quite the life back in the 1800s and his poetry is central to this story. I learned more about him here.
- Spanish is woven into the story although Arturo does not understand it very well. He was born in America and English is more to his liking. Of course hearing bilingual Carmen speak to his parents and grandparents in Spanish makes him want to relearn what he once knew.
- I felt every moment of Arturo’s angst as junior lunchtime dishwasher. My first job was as a dishwasher at a local family chicken restaurant. I lasted a month.
“It was nice to see you again, Arturo,” Carmen said. She turned to follow Uncle Frank into their unit.
“You too,” I said. As I walked to my room, I tried to make sense of what had happened tonight. Carmen = Mom’s goddaughter/niece was not computing with Artura + Carmen = sudden frying of intestines when I talked to her.
When I’m asked what “home” means to me, I think of it as a feeling rather than a specific place. The fictional Miami neighborhood you will read about in these pages is an amalgam of my many spiritual homes. Miami is where I live now, but a part of me carries my summers in Spain where I developed my first crush. Another part carries my years growing up in New York City and later working in Los Angeles. A deeper part of me carries my grandparents’ journey from Cuba—with all the sacrifice that entailed. Home is my culture. Home is my family. Home is something we instinctively want to protect.
(For more about Pablo and his books visit his web site)
Make a comment below if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them.
Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.