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Emilia Torres has a wandering mind. It’s hard for her to follow along at school, and sometimes she forgets to do what her mom or abuela asks. But she remembers what matters: a time when her family was whole and home made sense. When Dad returns from deployment, Emilia expects that her life will get back to normal. Instead, it unravels. Dad shuts himself in the back stall of their family’s auto shop to work on an old car. Emilia peeks in on him daily, mesmerized by his welder. One day, Dad calls Emilia over. Then, he teaches her how to weld. And over time, flickers of her old dad reappear. But as Emilia finds a way to repair the relationship with her father at home, her community ruptures with some of her classmates, like her best friend, Gus, at the center of the conflict.
1. Why does Emilia record videos to send to her father when he is deployed?
2. Emilia and her family drink café con leche, Cuban coffee. Her mother says that the smell of it is “‘the sweet aroma of our island [Cuba] and our ancestors’.” What does that mean?
3. Why does Emilia choose to begin her tour at the Latino food store?
4. When Emilia discovers that the Olympic stadium was built by immigrants who then risked deportation, she wonders about the fate of her family members who are immigrants. She thinks: “Who makes the rules about who gets to stay somewhere and who has to leave?” This is a big question. Should someone have the power to dictate where another lives? If they stay or go?
5. Why do you think many students in Emilia’s class don’t know about the history of Park View and Merryville?
6. Why does Gus forgive Emilia for standing him up at Clarissa’s party?
7. Why does Mr. Richt cancel the travel brochure project?
8. Eventually, Emilia Rosa insists that Clarissa call her by her real name, instead of “Emi Rose.” Why is it so important that Emilia Rosa be called by her real, full name?
9. Describe Emilia’s relationships with her family (mother, father, and grandmother). Why would she be okay with her mother taking the job in San Fransisco when her family is so rarely all together?
10. Emilia’s father makes her a video at the end of the book. How does Emilia react to this video?
Pablo Cartaya is an award-winning author whose books have been reviewed by The New York Times, featured in The Washington Post, received starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal, and featured on many Best Books of the Year and state award lists. He is the author of the critically acclaimed middle-grade novels The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora (a 2018 Pura Belpre Honor Book) and Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish (currently in development as a feature film adaptation).
His most recent novel, Each Tiny Spark, was honored with the 2020 Schneider Family Book Award for its portrayal of the disability experience and published by the Kokila Penguin Random House Imprint, which focuses on publishing diverse books for children and young adults.