“When you decide you’re going to tell a girl you like her, you need galactic-level courage.”
Summer’s bringing its share of changes for 13-year-old Arturo Zamora. Hanging out with friends, working part-time at his family’s restaurant, La Cocina de la Isla, and joining in Sunday family dinners guarantees some fun times at the start of the hot season. But when a sleazy land developer named Wilfrido Pipo arrives in town to build an upscale high-rise right where La Cocina stands, derailing the Zamoras’ plans to expand the family business, Arturo sees that his Miami neighborhood’s in trouble. The money-grubbing intruder woos neighbors and old friends with gifts and a flashy festival. Now, Arturo’s family and friends must fight back to stop Pipo, and these friends include Carmen, a spirited visiting Spaniard who stirs confusing, wonderful feelings within Arturo. “Lo mas importante, mi Arturito, es el amor y la fe,” says Abuela. Concerned about his ailing grandmother, Arturo struggles to help save the restaurant she built, finding inspiration in two unlikely sources: a box full of letters from his long-departed grandfather and the revolutionary poetry of José Martí. Will Arturo discover the love and faith resting inside him? In this inspiring middle-grade debut, Cartaya presents a delightful portrayal of boyhood, skillfully navigating Arturo through the awkwardness, funniness, and messiness that often accompany young love. And in the author’s depiction of the Zamoras—a mostly Cuban-American family full of distinct, lovable characters—the book also testifies to the importance of community.
Irresistibly exquisite. (author’s note, recipes) (Fiction. 10-14)