Monday, June 26, 2017

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora, by Pablo Cartaya

About Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays:
On his last post, Michael stated that he's been following author Shannon Messenger's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday for years, and following on in her tradition, he gave us a great review of POISON IS NOT POLITE. I recently read Pablo Cartaya's debut middle grade novel THE EPIC FAIL OF ARTURO ZAMORA. I've been talking nonstop about this wonderful title, and I wanted to share the love I have for this book with you Mayhemmers.


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, 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 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.

Praise for The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya:

"Irresistibly exquisite." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"At turns funny, beautiful, and heartbreaking... engrossing." —Booklist, starred review

"A vibrant debut novel about family, friendship, and community." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Pablo Cartaya's sensational debut is a love letter to boyhood, poetry, and family. Quite simply, this is the book I've been waiting for." —Matt de la Peña, New York Times bestselling and Newbery Medal–winning author of The Last Stop on Market Street

"This story of hope will make you laugh, cry, sigh, and cheer for brave Arturo and his whole cool familia. Along the way, you'll end up hungry for Cuban food, ravenous for poetry, and determined to stand up to bullies who try to destroy communities. ¡Bravo!" —Margarita Engle, Newbery Honor–winning author of The Surrender Tree.

Why I liked it:

Arturo's voice and that of the story itself are spot-on middle grade. Full of hope and longing, full of wonder and possibility. Arturo has a strong support group in his family (all those people related to him by blood), but also those who are considered cousins and aunts and uncles but they're not blood cousins, aunts, and uncles. I immersed myself completely in this story which like the family recipes of Abuela's restaurant contains all the ingredients of my favorite reads: a full fledged character trying to find his place in the community and do his part to leave his mark in the family's legacy, believable family relationships (I love Arturo's relationship with his Abuela, especially. The way he speaks to her in English and she replies in Spanish because in matters of the heart, languages are secondary. Love is always first), strong friendships (including a friend who's such a Pitbull fan, he uses all of Mr. Worldwide's famous phrases like "Dale!"), and such a vivid setting that it reads like a character. I love Miami, and reading this book I could almost smell the sea and feel the balmy, humid breeze on my skin (I love the humidity, and as a Utah resident, I CRAVE it!).  When I was reading it I laughed so much and so hard, that my twelve-year-old son begged me to finish it quickly so he could read it next. He was hooked from the first paragraph. I mean, take a look for yourself:

And last but not least, did I mention the poetry? Arturo discovers the power of José Martí's words to resist against injustice and to understand his own family history.

About the author: 

Pablo Cartaya has always been a hopeless romantic. In middle school he secretly loved reading Shakespeare’s sonnets (don’t tell anyone), and he once spent his allowance on roses for a girl he liked. He also wrote her eight poems. Bad ones. He’s been writing ever since. Pablo has worked in Cuban restaurants and the entertainment industry, and he graduated with an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. All of these experiences have helped him write stories that reflect his family, culture, and love of words. Pablo lives in Miami with his wife and two kids, surrounded by tías, tíos, cousins, and people who he calls cousins (but aren’t really his cousins). Learn more about Pablo at


  1. This sounds like a great story. Arturo sounds like a great character and this sounds like a good one for the summer.

  2. Sounds like a nice story. Culture is important.


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!