The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora

by Pablo Cartaya
First sentence: “I’m officially resigning from love.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: It’s a bit more, well, mushy than your usual middle grade fare, but it doesn’t smack of YA quite yet. While it’s in that nice spot for 10-12-year-olds, it’s in the Middle Grade section (grades 3-5) of the bookstore. I may change that and put it in the YA. We’ll see.

It’s the summer after 7th grade, and Arturo Zamora is ready to have a good one. He’s working at his family’s restaurant, hanging out with friends in his Miami neighborhood. That all changes, however, when a big developer decides to make a bid for the lot next door to the restaurant, the one which the Zamora’s were hoping to purchase from the city for their expansion, and has plans to put in a fancy new “exclusive” building. All of a sudden Arutro’s summer has turned into fighting this developer, and figuring out his place in the family. Not to mention his burgeoning feelings for his mother’s goddaughter, Carmen. It’s going to be quite the summer.

This was a really fun book. I enjoyed Arturo’s attempts to figure himself out. I loved the Cubano culture that threaded itself through the book. I loved Arturo’s relationship with his grandmother and mother. Even the slight romance wasn’t overdone. I loved that the Spanish was woven seamlessly in the book, often without English translation. It felt more authentic that way. And I also thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the Zamora’s and cheering the little guy in the fight against Big Man. Definitely one to check out.

Switch

by Ingrid Law
First sentence: “Please, Mrs. Foster– I’ve seen your future, and you really don’t want to buy this soap.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the publisher rep.
Others in the series: Savvy, Scumble
Content: It’s pretty basic for younger kids (though I think it might be a handful for some 3rd graders), and though there’s some kissing and a little bullying and some scary driving in the snow, it’s mostly harmless. It’s in the Middle Grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.

One of the things I like best about Law’s books is that even though they’re a trilogy, they’re also three stand-alones. Sure, it helps if you know what a savvy is and what scumbling means, but other than that, the whole story is basically self-contained. And that’s wonderful.

This one is Gypsy’s story (who was a wee babe in the first book). It’s a couple months after Gypsy gets her savvy, which is seeing a person’s future (or past) when she looks at them. It’s a tough one to scumble, but she’s trying. Then comes the news that her Grandma Pat (her dad’s mom, one without a savvy and who doesn’t really like the Beaumont kids) is deteriorating and needs to come live with them. This is not something that Gypsy is happy about; she and her grandma don’t really get along. But, she doesn’t have much say in the matter, so she’s dragged along to Colorado when her mom takes her and her brothers Samson and Tucker off to Colorado to fetch Grandma Pat.

And that’s when things get interesting: somehow their savvys are switched. Mom is no longer perfect, Samson went from being invisible to being the Lord of the Fire, and Tucker, who is only eight, got his savvy five years early. And Gypsy discovers she can stop time. Then Grandma escapes the house (she has Alzheimer’s and is determined to go to a school dance) in the middle of a blizzard and it’s up to Gypsy, Samson, Tucker, and their new friend Nola to bring her back.

It had very much the same feel as Law’s other books: sweet, family-centric, with a bit of unbelievableness thrown in. I had a hard time suspending my disbelief: why on EARTH were they wandering around in Denver during a BLIZZARD? But, aside from that I loved Gypsy and Samson (and Tucker was adorable, though acted a bit young for an eight-year-old; he felt more like five). I liked the story, I liked that most of the book was over one night, and I liked that Gypsy learned to understand and accept her grandmother for who she was, not who Gypsy wanted her to be.

I’m not sure it’s my favorite of the series, but it’s a solid addition.