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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora, written by Pablo Cartaya. Viking, Penguin Random House. 2017. $22.99 ages 10 and up

"Now it was just the two of us, and I walked Abuela to her apartment. The first thing she did when she got inside was head to her little kitchen to make a batido from fresh mangos that had fallen from the neighbor's tree. Every summer when the mango trees started giving fruit, the couple who lived in the building next to ours would give her a grocery bag full of ripe, delicious mangos."

Grandmothers, as matriarchs in the family, are worthy of much respect. Such is the case in the Zamora family. Abuela and Abuleo worked hard, after arriving in Florida from Cuba, to make a living and a life for their family. Today the family restaurant, La Cochina de la Isla, is the heart of that family's life.

In this novel about the Zamora family, their community, and the many friendships they enjoy, the  narrator, Arturo, helps us understand and learn everything we need to know about the love and warmth that the family shares and inspires. He is 13, already working in the restaurant that his mother is now running and still watching his beloved Abuela work her magic on the many customers who come to dine.

When family friends Carmen and her father arrive from Spain for a visit, Arturo feels the stirrings of first love. His life becomes a trifle complicated as yet another issue arises when a land developer shows interest in the land where the restaurant and Arturo family apartment complex stand. The family had been hoping to expand their business into a piece of land beside the restaurant. Will those plans have to change? Will the family lose their livelihood - the restaurant that is an important part of this cultural community?

Arturo's voice is sincere, strong, and funny. The author uses variety in the storytelling, with tweets, letters, the poetry of Jose Marti, and dialogue that switches between English and Spanish. Secondary characters add depth, support and voice to this memorable family story.

Inspiring and highly entertaining, it leaves me looking forward to meeting Arturo at some future date.

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