The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartayaby Pablo Cartaya
Also by this author: Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish
Genres: Children's Books, Children's Fiction (Tween), Young Adult
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 summer also includes Carmen, a cute girl 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.

Favorite Families in Children’s Literature
Pablo Cartaya

I have a big loud Cuban-American family. We have disagreements, celebrate successes together, bicker, complain, cry, laugh, you name it my family does it together. I think back to the influential books that stayed with me, and I realize that many of them have big colorful families with strong family members. So without further adieu, here is my top five list of favorite families or family members in children’s literature. These are in no particular order.

1. A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck – I love Richard Peck’s brilliantly crafted, wry, and elegant story about a small town grandmother and her visiting grandchildren. Mrs. Dowdel is a formidable (quite literally towering) grandmother in the novel who hides her kindness in a tough-as-nails exterior. The Abuela character in my novel has many larger-than-life traits as well, albeit not of the armed with a shotgun kind. Hands down though, Mrs. Dowdel is one of my all-time favorite Abuelas.

2. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – Mr. and Mrs. Murray give their children the charge to handle things on their own, and they trust them to make decisions. When I was a kid I remember reading how the Murray kids faced down incredible enemies with the full confidence and support of their parents. I love that about A Wrinkle in Time. Plus it was one of the first books I completely disappeared into and believed the characters were real. In my novel, Arturo takes the reigns to galvanize his entire community. He is entrusted with taking action and this emboldens him and gives him confidence. In no small way, Madeleine L’Engle’s timeless characters shaped my view of trust between adult family members and their children.

3. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – I think the biggest thing in this classic novel is the strong familial bond between the Pevensie siblings. They fight and turn on each other but ultimately come together to face great evil. Again, the bond between siblings outweighs the disagreements they have. I love that about this series. Plus, I spent a great deal of my childhood hiding in my mother’s armoire secretly hoping a magic portal would open and reveal a magnificent world like Narnia.

4. Wonder by R.J. Palacio – This more recent entry into my pantheon of favorite families is filled with complex characters (from children to adults). The Pullman family is rich and complicated and navigates the dynamics of their circumstances realistically. People have said that the family members in my book remind them of real people. I think the Pullmans are brilliantly crafted and serve as an example of creating dynamic and realistic representations of family.

5. Matilda by Roald Dahl – Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking: how can I put the Wormwoods in my favorite children’s lit families! Well, I have to counter with the fact that the Wormwoods are one of the most despicable, yet utterly unforgettable families in all of children’s literature. The family has no positive discernable qualities and often resorts to trickery to get what they want. Heck, even Matilda has a little dark side to her! Yet despite all these failings, the Wormwoods are right up there with the best of them. Simply unforgettable, even if slightly, definitely despicable.

That’s my top five favorite families in children’s literature! The ones that had a big influence on me as a kid and ones I thought about as I was writing and developing the family in The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora. Above all, these five brilliant novels have memorable characters with strong family ties. Yes, even the Wormwoods are tight, albeit a little ridiculous. But whose familia isn’t a little, you know, ridiculous?

 I have an EPIC love for Arturo Zamora! I don’t think I have loved a middle grade book much as this one in quite some time. Filled with food, family, culture, poetry, and a first crush, this story takes us on an epic journey to find one’s self. An excellent adventure about the power of words, the love of family, the value of friendship and the courage to fight for what’s right. We need more voices like Pablo Cartaya in children’s literature.

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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