The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora
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 summer also includes Carmen, a cute poetry enthusiast 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.
Funny and poignant, The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora is the vibrant story of a family, a striking portrait of a town, and one boy's quest to save both, perfect for fans of Rita Williams-Garcia.
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.
Arturo is a strong character. He is frustrated with the "epic fails" in his life and struggles to overcome them. He doesn't know how to act around Carmen, and feels like the odd man out in his family because he isn't fluent in Spanish. He is slammed with so many conflicts and doesn't know how to deal with them. When he's open to getting out of his comfort zone, his doubts and worries get the best of him until he gives up altogether. As the only one in his family who believes the restaurant can be saved, Arturo recognizes that he has to stand up for what he believes in. To change his community for the better, he also has to change.
I appreciated how The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora ?portrayed how to gain public support for a cause. They held protests, rallies and made pamphlets to spread the word about the family restaurant.
I loved how Arturo referred to how he felt around Carmen. A deep fryer? Hilarious. Arturo is freaked out because Carmen is practically his cousin. Arturo's insightful and funny narration made me view his relationship with Carmen in a different light. Carmen inspires him to look into poetry, and helps him develop his appreciation for it.
?I loved the diverse cast of characters. Arturo's tightly-knit Cuban-American family supported each other through thick and thin. The family's heritage was an important part of their identity, and their culture strengthened their community. Their faith and determination motivated them to save what they had worked so hard to build. As Arturo grows and learns throughout the story, his family does as well. The book taught me about Arturo's culture. I learned about Spanish foods, traditions and poets, along with a little of the language.
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora gives the reader a unique perspective into having a business, a crush, and a huge conflict. Jam-packed full of lessons on making a difference and overcoming yourself, it is a memorable read perfect for summer!