The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora

Save the restaurant. Save the town. Get the girl. Make Abuela proud. Can thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora do it all or is he in for a BIG, EPIC FAIL? For Arturo, summetime 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 su...

Title:The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora
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The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora Reviews

  • Ms. Yingling
    Mar 15, 2017

    ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

    Arturo lives in a very close knit community-- his family owns an apartment building, and his family, his grandmother, and most of his aunts and uncles live there. This summer, even a friend of his mother's is staying at the complex with his daughter, Carmen, to regroup after the death of Carmen's mother. Arturo is oddly drawn to her, but reminds himself that she is practically his cousin! There's a lot going on in his abuela's restaurant, La Cocina de la

    ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

    Arturo lives in a very close knit community-- his family owns an apartment building, and his family, his grandmother, and most of his aunts and uncles live there. This summer, even a friend of his mother's is staying at the complex with his daughter, Carmen, to regroup after the death of Carmen's mother. Arturo is oddly drawn to her, but reminds himself that she is practically his cousin! There's a lot going on in his abuela's restaurant, La Cocina de la Isla, where his mother is the head chef. Not onlky does Arturo have a job as a junior dishwasher, but the family is trying to expand the place in order to do more business. The only problem? The slick Wilfrido Pipo comes to Canal Grove and wants to put up Pipo Place. This new apartment building will have it all, and Wilfrido is trying to get community buy in by having lots of parties and promising to increase business to the area. The problem? His plan involves tearing down abuela's restaurant! The family goes all out to save it, but will it be enough to appeal to Canal Grove's sense of family? And will Arturo be able to talk to Carmen without too many "epic fails"?

    Weaving in some Spanish vocabulary, this warm tale of family, food and friends is a delightful change from the standard tales of gloom and doom coming out for middle grade readers. I loved that the Zamoras were able to work together without too much family drama, and that their community valued their contributions. While there were some sad things (the death of Carmen's mother before the book opens, and another death during it), they were handled with resilience and pragmatism. No one becomes inconsolable and unable to function, which I thought was much more realistic. There is even a scene where Arturo's mother asks him to help with the funeral dinner-- she cries over her loss but is able to go on, even using the cooking to bond with Arturo and help him through the situation, instead of being unable to care for him. We need to see more of these coping skills in middle grade literature!

    There is an interesting sub plot involving Arturo's growing interest in poetry which ties into his discovery of Carmen as a girl instead of a "cousin" that will intrigue readers, and perhaps get them to investigate the work of Jose Marti. This was another instance of bringing a more hopeful tone to the story-- Arturo's grandfather was fond of Marti's work, and Arturo gets to know more about his deceased grandfather through reading journals he had kept when he moved to the US.

    While the family's Cuban heritage is vividly portrayed, it is integral to the story instead of being the main focus. Family, and the family business, figures largely, and Arturo's teenage concerns are paramount. Will he be taken seriously as a dishwasher? Can he care for his abuela? What will happen to his family if the restaurant goes under? Does Carment like him? Readers will identify with these concerns while having a window into what it would be like to live in a close knit Florida community.

    Fans of Johnson's The Great Green Heist, Grabenstein's Wonderland Motel series, and Paul Acampora's books about the adventures of middle grade boys will gobble up The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora... and probably get hungry for churros while reading this humorous and insightful tale.

  • Shenwei
    Jun 17, 2017

    A touching middle grade story about family, food, poetry, community, first crushes, and the fight against gentrification. Loved the incorporation of poetry into the story, notably poems by Cuban revolutionary José Martí.

  • Richie Partington
    Apr 07, 2017

    Richie’s Picks: THE EPIC FAIL OF ARTURO ZAMORA by Pablo Cartaya, Viking, May 2017, 256p., ISBN: 978-1-101-99723-9

    “Sometimes change comes at you like a broadside accident.”

    -- Joni Mitchell, “Good Friends” (1985)

    “For many years, the Mission has been the battleground for protests over evictions, tech shuttles, gentrification, and the soaring cost of living.

    Yet in San Francisco’s oldest neighborhood, the issues are more complicated than two sides of a sharply divided protest. The Mission’s longtime

    Richie’s Picks: THE EPIC FAIL OF ARTURO ZAMORA by Pablo Cartaya, Viking, May 2017, 256p., ISBN: 978-1-101-99723-9

    “Sometimes change comes at you like a broadside accident.”

    -- Joni Mitchell, “Good Friends” (1985)

    “For many years, the Mission has been the battleground for protests over evictions, tech shuttles, gentrification, and the soaring cost of living.

    Yet in San Francisco’s oldest neighborhood, the issues are more complicated than two sides of a sharply divided protest. The Mission’s longtime residents are struggling to make businesses work, fighting to keep a foothold in their homes and coping with an unprecedented influx of wealth. For them, the shift is far more nuanced than catchy protest slogans.”

    -- from the introduction to the San Francisco Chronicle’s documentary, “A CHANGING MISSION: To whom does San Francisco’s oldest neighborhood belong?”

    This “geographical shuffling of low-income people at the behest of those with money” is currently an important issue in San Francisco, New York, Boston, Seattle, and other big American cities. Therefore, I find it notable that, in THE EPIC FAIL OF ARTURO ZAMORA, a tween character explains the term “gentrification” to Arturo Zamora.

    THE EPIC FAIL OF ARTURO ZAMORA, set in a Cuban-American neighborhood in Miami, involves a developer who comes into town with big plans that threaten to radically disrupt the lives of the extended Zamora family and their beloved, decades-old family restaurant. The family and their friends must galvanize opposition to the potential displacement and develop a campaign for its defeat.

    The story takes place over three weeks during the summer vacation that precedes Arturo’s entrance to eighth grade. Arturo has a summer dishwashing job at the family restaurant. His buddies Mop and Bren are preparing to leave town for summer adventures. Meanwhile, Carmen, whose parents were old family friends of the Zamoras, has just arrived from Spain with her father for the summer. They are mourning the recent loss of Carmen’s mother.

    Throughout THE EPIC FAIL OF ARTURO ZAMORA, we repeatedly encounter the poetry of and information about the life of legendary Cuban hero José Martí. Since the thawing of U.S. relations with Cuba has been in the news over recent years, this exposure to Martí may well prompt young readers to learn a bit more about the island nation that is situated so close to America.

    And since the story revolves around the family restaurant, there are plenty of traditional Cuban dishes constantly being prepared, served, and eaten.

    But THE EPIC FAIL OF ARTURO ZAMORA isn’t notable merely because it is immersed in poetry, good food, and important topical issues. This book is overflowing with heart--vivid depictions of family, young love, and the heartwarming camaraderie of young male friends that had me wistfully recalling the joys of being a young teen, goofing around with the guys, “ranking” on one another:

    “BREN: Dude, what’s in your hand?

    ME: Um, a book.

    BREN: What kind of book?

    ME: A book of poems.

    Bren stopped dribbling.

    BREN: By poems, you mean, like, rap lyrics?

    Mop interrupted us and took the book out of my hand.

    MOP: José Martí? Cool. Didn’t know you were reading that.

    ME: I’m not. I mean, I guess I could--will--maybe read it.

    BREN: I don’t know any rappers named José. Is he new?

    MOP: Bren. Martí was a revolutionary hero in the Cuban War for Independence against Spain in the late 1800s.

    BREN: A Cuban rapper from the 1800s? Dude, that’s awesome.

    Bren tried to shoot a three but airballed.

    MOP: Are you sure you want to try out for the eighth-grade team?

    BREN: I have a good chance to start.

    Mop and I looked at each other.

    BREN: So, Arturo, perchance does that book of Cuban rapper poems belong to a special someone who popped into your life the other day after so many years apart?

    ME: What? No.

    Bren stopped shooting and smiled.

    BREN: Bro, she was, like, the tallest girl I’ve ever seen She’s almost your height, Arturo.

    Mop took the ball from Bren.

    MOP: Every time you say bro, the English language loses its will to live.

    BREN: Dude, I think you should totally ask her out.

    ME: No way. My mom is her godmother! We’re practically related. Can we just play?”

    What THE EPIC FAIL OF ARTURO ZAMORA shows us is that, while change is inevitable, we, as a society, repeatedly struggle to strike a balance between embracing change and holding onto the traditions and connections that make us who we are.

    These days, in a mobility-driven America, extended families living in close proximity are nowhere near as commonplace as they once were. The fictional, Cuban-American Zamora clan harkens back to a time many of us aging readers recall, back when our own immigrant grandparents were still alive and there were big Sunday dinners and close extended family relationships.

    Like those big Sunday dinners from my own childhood, THE EPIC FAIL OF ARTURO ZAMORA is a wonderfully satisfying experience.

    Richie Partington, MLIS

    Richie's Picks

    richiepartington@gmail.com

  • Brenda Kahn
    Apr 16, 2017

    Reading this debut was like being enfolded into Arturo's Abuela's warm hugs. It was like meeting a family for the first time and feeling as comfortable as if you've known them forever. Arturo's voice is earnest and awkward and at times, hilarious but always genuine.

  • Brittany
    Jun 21, 2017

    This is a beautiful, poignant and soulful book.

    Arturo is a third-generation Cuban-American, and this story is about his family's legacy and whether he wants to stand up in his community to protect it.

    Arturo is deeply close to his grandparents, especially his abuela, who is of failing health, and he spends much of his time helping her reminisce with letters and poetry of his departed abuelo, who was a huge fan of Jose Marti.

    Almost with a nod to Kwame Alexander or Sherman Alexie, this book tack

    This is a beautiful, poignant and soulful book.

    Arturo is a third-generation Cuban-American, and this story is about his family's legacy and whether he wants to stand up in his community to protect it.

    Arturo is deeply close to his grandparents, especially his abuela, who is of failing health, and he spends much of his time helping her reminisce with letters and poetry of his departed abuelo, who was a huge fan of Jose Marti.

    Almost with a nod to Kwame Alexander or Sherman Alexie, this book tackles culture and family and identity and young love, while blending in the power of poetry to connect to the heart.

    And it's done so well.

    My favorite aspect is the approach. I love Arturo's voice and the choice to write the book in Spanglish. It forces young readers to use their inferencing skills, but also highlights the culture...which is the core of the plot.

    Spectacular. And the ending. I'm just going to say, it's perfect.

  • Melissa Mcavoy
    May 29, 2017

    I'm afraid I found this a bit of a snooze fest. I loved the Spanish-American culture. I loved the extended family and the relationship with the abuela. The evil real-estate developer was embarrassingly two dimensional.. the love interest was wooden and I had a hard time believing in any of the verbal exchanges. For me the story never came to life. Even the ending left a weird taste as the family violated the Federal Clean Water Act.

  • paula
    May 27, 2017

    So here's an unintended consequence of our Tangerine Hitler in Chief -- you can now make the villain in a children's book just as grotesque and childish as you like.

    Where previously I might have read the soulless real estate developer bent on destroying Arturo's family's restaurant as cartoonish and unrealistic, now I get that someone just like "Wilfrido Pipo" has surely been taking down honest businesses for decades, and with the same lack of subtlety.

    Also, this is a fantastic book.

  • Celeste_pewter
    Jun 13, 2017

    I adore coming-of-age stories, so I was delighted when I was invited to join the blog tour for The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora.

    Thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora is ready to take on summer vacation by storm. But a land developer brings new challenges to him and his family, as he tries to pursue a new high rise building, where Arturo's family restaurant stands. It's now up to Arturo, and his eclectic group of friends, to try and fight back, and save La Cocina.

    What I love about Pablo Cartaya's novel

    I adore coming-of-age stories, so I was delighted when I was invited to join the blog tour for The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora.

    Thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora is ready to take on summer vacation by storm. But a land developer brings new challenges to him and his family, as he tries to pursue a new high rise building, where Arturo's family restaurant stands. It's now up to Arturo, and his eclectic group of friends, to try and fight back, and save La Cocina.

    What I love about Pablo Cartaya's novel, is that he writes with an absolute zest for his story. Cataya has mentioned before that he has breathed life into these characters inside and out for years, and his obvious affection for his crew is evident in every page. He paints a wonderful picture of what it's like to grow up in both ordinary and extraordinary circumstances, and what it means to be an awkward, likable teen, who is going through those circumstances, step-by-step.

    Outside of the broad scope of the story, Cartaya's writing is a treat in it of itself. I don't often remark on the stylistic elements of a writer's work, but there's a certain melodic quality to his work, which helps invoke both Arturo's background, but also a genuine richness to the book.

    All in all, Cartaya is one to watch. Highly recommend, full stop.

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