When I first read the title of this middle-grade novel, I thought, “What could a boy’s epic fail be?” The next thing that I found exciting was having a male protagonist in the story. It is no easy feat to generally find a male protagonist in books, so I definitely wanted to give it a try. The first few pages give us cultural insight into young Arturo Zamora’s life. He shares how his family has a restaurant named La Cocina de la Isla, founded by his maternal grandparents, Abuela y Abuelo. Readers also instantly learn about his crush on Carmen Sánchez, whom his family sees as part of the family already. Set in Florida, the book takes you on a journey of family history, activism, young love, humor, bravery, self-discovery, and community.
The funniest first moment of the book, in my opinion, is when Arturo introduces the reader to his two best friends, Bren and Mop (real name is Benjamin, rest assured you find out why they call him “Mop” when you read it). In the first chapter, Bren says he is wearing glasses inside to “keep the glare out, homie. The 305 can get pretty bright” to which Mop responds, “Stop talking like Pitbull. You are not Pitbull!” It was very funny for me to read this interaction between them because, as a fan of Pitbull’s music, I know he calls himself “305” and having characters talk and bicker in such a realistic way as youngsters is really light-heartening. It also reflects a realistic development for kids – growing up, some may wish they could be like their favorite artist, whether it’s a singer or tv/film star. The embarrassment Mop and Arturo feel with Bren’s silliness is hilarious and fun.
This book’s Spanish dialogue also resonates with the Latinx culture, having names like, “Arturo”, “tía”, “Rogelio”, “Abuela”, “Carmen”, “churros”, “dale” and much more! Additionally, it includes poems from José Martí, who helped lead Cuba to freedom from Spain. Both Carmen and Abuelo share an admiration for José Martí, whom Arturo begins to learn about as he reads his book of poems. Some of the lines are, “Yo vengo de todas partes, y hacia todas partes voy: Arte soy entre las artes, En los montes, monte soy.” To me, the poem speaks about how a person is made up of many places, and will be headed to many more, and a person is an art thyself. Reading further along, you get more lovely poetic lyrics. One of the things that stood out to me most was the important message Pablo Cartaya gives readers. It is the message of “amor y fé” (love and faith). Arturo’s Abuela constantly tells him to keep his eye out for this when in trouble. It is very powerful because love and faith tend to be underappreciated.
The warmth that Abuela transmits in this story will take you back to your own times (if applicable) – when you have had your own Abuela welcome you graciously into her home. In the story, Arturo’s Abuela always welcomes everyone into their family restaurant. This enhances the Zamora family’s warmth and acceptance. It’s also great to read about the foods that they cook, such as a delicious mango smoothie. I also thought it was a nice touch to incorporate Twitter in the story as well, where readers get a glimpse of Arturo’s Twitter interactions with his friends – you won’t run short of humor with this book.
Of course, not everything is merry. There will be a strong obstacle putting the Zamora family to the test. The family is full of members, which will remind those with big families of their own family. And they will have to unite to prevent the closure of their long-time family restaurant. The story reflects the fight many small businesses have going through, and now more than ever are struggling with – that is the dilemma that gentrification brings to neighborhoods. It is commonly known big chains have created more competition for small businesses, and this novel can also teach young readers how to become supporting activists.
You may be wondering how is it that Arturo failed epically. I won’t it away, but I will say this: having lots of guts will make him do unexpected things. You’ll have to read the book to find out what it is! This is a book that will make you laugh, mouth-water for food, and remind you of the importance of love and faith with unity. ¡Unidos la gente es mas fuerte!
🥭📙 #BookRecommendation #LibrosRecomendados #BookReview #ReseñadelLibro 📙🥭
Rating: 5/5 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟