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A 2018 Pura Belpré Author Honor Book
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, summertime 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 poetry enthusiast 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.
Funny and poignant, The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora is the vibrant story of a family, a striking portrait of a town, and one boy’s quest to save both, perfect for fans of Rita Williams-Garcia.
Before Reading: to activate schema, build background knowledge, and set a purpose.
• Have any new buildings been built in your town or city? How do you feel about it?
• Which is better - new things or old things? Why?
• What does “family is community, community is family” mean to you?
• Frontload vocabulary for chapters 1-3 (see vocabulary guide)
During Reading: to engage students, check for understanding, and make connections. Prompt
students to provide support for their answers from the text.
• Why do Carmen and her father join the Zamora family for Sunday dinner? (Ch. 1)
• Describe Arturo’s family. (Ch. 1, Ch. 2)
• What is it like working at Arturo’s family’s restaurant? Would you want to work there? (Ch. 2)
• Why is Arturo so awkward around Carmen? (Ch. 3)
• Describe Arturo’s friends, Mop and Bren. How are they good friends to him? (Ch. 4, Ch. 9, Ch. 19)
• Who is Wilfrido Pipo? How is Wilfrido causing a problem for Arturo’s family? (Ch. 5, Ch. 7)
• What is Carmen’s plan? (Ch. 6) What do Carmen and Arturo learn at Wilfrido’s office? (Ch. 7)
• Why does Arturo want to tell Abuela about Wilfrido’s plan? Why does Carmen think that’s not a good idea? (Ch. 8)
• What is in the box that Abuela gives Arturo? (Ch. 10) Why does Abuela give Arturo the box? (Ch. 11)
• What is the Zamora family’s plan to save the restaurant? Do you think the plan will work? Why or why not? (Ch. 12)
• Why does Arturo’s mom call an emergency family meeting? (Ch. 13)
• What is the Zamora’s plan to discourage Wilfrido’s development? (Ch. 14)
• What does Arturo learn from Abuelo’s letters? (Ch. 14)
• What happens at the festival? (Ch. 15)
• What happens when Arturo tells Carmen how he feels? (Ch. 15) How is Wilfrido’s idea of family different than the Zamora’s idea of family? (Ch. 16)
• What is Arturo’s total, epic fail? (Ch. 17)
• Do you think the family should fight for their restaurant? Do you agree with Aunt Tuti or with Arturo’s mom? (Ch. 19) How do Arturo’s family and the community honor Abuela? (Ch. 21, Ch. 22, Ch. 23)
• What is Arturo’s mom’s argument for keeping the restaurant open? (Ch. 25)
• Do you agree with the title of the book - do you think Arturo had an epic fail? (epilogue)
After Reading: to summarize, question, and reflect.
Arturo’s family finds a cause in their community that is important to them and stands up for it.
Think of something in your community that you think needs more attention and make a poster
or pamphlet giving information about it and showing support.
Compare Arturo to his Abuela and his Abuelo. What traits does he get from each of his
If your students enjoyed this book...
• Encourage them to continue to discuss it and refer to it in other lessons and conversations.
• Let them explore more about the topic by reading other books with similar themes, structure,
characters, or content.
Pablo Cartaya is an internationally acclaimed author, screenwriter, speaker, and educator.
His work has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, NBC, and on Oprah’s Booklist. Pablo has worked with Disney, Apple+, and Sesame Street on projects adapted from television series and movies. In 2021, he served as a judge for the National Book Award in Young People's Literature and has taught creative writing workshops and spoken at various universities and conferences throughout the world. He calls Miami home and Cuban-American his cultura. Novels include: The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora, Marcus Vega Doesn't Speak Spanish, Each Tiny Spark, and the upcoming climate dystopia The Last Beekeeper. He also contributed to the collection of essays Hope Wins published in 2022. Notable Awards and Honors include: 2020 Schneider Family Book Award Honor, 2019 ALSC Notable Book, 2018 American Library Association’s Pura Belpré Honor, 2018 Audie Award Finalist, and 2018 E.B. White Read Aloud Book Award Finalist. Follow him at @phcartaya on Instagram and Twitter.