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Each Tiny Spark
Cover of Each Tiny Spark
Each Tiny Spark
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From award-winning author Pablo Cartaya comes a deeply moving middle grade novel about a daughter and father finding their way back to each other in the face of their changing family and community.A...
From award-winning author Pablo Cartaya comes a deeply moving middle grade novel about a daughter and father finding their way back to each other in the face of their changing family and community.A...
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  • From award-winning author Pablo Cartaya comes a deeply moving middle grade novel about a daughter and father finding their way back to each other in the face of their changing family and community.
    A SCHNEIDER FAMILY BOOK AWARD HONOR FOR MIDDLE GRADE
    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.
    Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya is a tender story about asking big questions and being brave enough to reckon with the answers.
 

Awards-

Excerpts-

  • From the cover CHAPTER ONE

    I wasn't fast enough. Abuela appears behind me, already dressed with her makeup on, hair in a perfect bun. "Ven," she says, holding two brushes and a flatiron. She gestures for me to follow her into her room. I really wanted to get a few knots out of my hair before she got started.

    She sits me down on the footstool facing her full-length mirror. As soon as my butt touches the seat, she hammers away with the hairbrush like she's some kind of black­smith hairstylist.

    My head jerks as Abuela pulls. She takes a skinny comb with a long, pointy handle and splits my hair into sections with hair clips that look like chomping alligators. With one section in her hand, she takes the flatiron in the other. She feeds my hair into the iron and clamps down on the strands. Steam curls out like a dragon exhaling as the iron slides from the top of my head to my tips. Even though she's never burned me, I get nervous when Abuela gets close to my ears.

    I don't have my mom's jet-black hair, but I have her curls. Or waves—my hair swooshes like a rolling tide. But after Abuela's done with it, it's as flat as a pancake. Today she straightens my hair out and puts it up into a ponytail.

    "Pa'que se quede liso," she says. I guess she's worried that if I don't put my hair up, it will get wavy later. Abuela turns my head toward the window and keeps working.

    There's something comforting about the way the sun enters the room through the curtains in the morning—it's like a tap-tap-tapping on the window, telling me it's time to get the day started. A cardinal chirps on the branch of our cedar tree. It flits around, and I'm jealous of the little bird for having so much energy in the morning. I lean over to draw the curtains open and let in more light.

    "Quédate quieta, muchacha," Abuela says. "You're mov­ing around too much."

    "Aurelia," Mom says, popping into the room. "Déjala con su pelo risado."
    Abuela stops tugging and looks back at Mom.

    "She's going to go to school with her hair curly and out of control? She won't be able to focus," Abuela says.

    "What?" my mom replies. "That's ridiculous."

    "Well, what will people think? I'll tell you: that she doesn't have anybody to take care of her. Is that what you want?"

    "That's what this is about," my mom says. "It's always about what other people think."

    "It's important to put your best foot forward," Abuela says, continuing to brush out my ponytail.

    "And I think her wavy hair is beautiful. It's her best foot, and I won't let you tell her otherwise." Mom winks while she scrunches her own hair.

    "It's fine, Mom," I finally say.

    It's not really fine—Abuela's daily hair rituals hurt, and I think my hair is like a lion's mane. And I love lions. But I'm not interested in Abuela and Mom getting into another argument over my hair.

    Abuela finishes by putting a large blue bow on top of my head. I get up and move toward my mom, who is still standing at the door. She's wearing baggy sweatpants and a tank top and has her favorite fluffy argyle socks on. Her long, curly black hair falls along her shoulders like a waterfall in the dead of night.

    I look back at my grandmother. She's wearing freshly pressed pants and a blouse with circles and stars on it, her auburn hair perfectly in place without a loose strand. Her round rosy cheeks and thin lips are stained the color of an Arkansas Black apple, and she's wearing the same gold-and-pearl earrings she's worn since my abuelo died.

    Between my mother and grandmother, I'm a blend of both. Short, head of wavy auburn hair, eyes large with dark...

About the Author-

  • Pablo Cartaya is an award-winning author, speaker, actor, and educator. In 2018, he received a Pura Belpré Author Honor for his middle grade novel The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora. His second novel, Marcus Vega Doesn't Speak Spanish, is available now. Learn more about Pablo at pablocartaya.com and follow him on Twitter @phcartaya.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from June 10, 2019
    Tension ignites in this layered, culturally rich novel set in an Atlanta suburb when Cuban-American Emilia’s software developer mother leaves on a business trip just as her father returns from military deployment. Cartaya (Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish) sensitively portrays how this upheaval amplifies the 12-year-old’s Inattentive Type ADHD—without her mother’s support, Emilia struggles to cope with assignments, friendships, and devoted but controlling Abuela. Amid this turmoil, Emilia and her father bond over welding, but the girl doesn’t comprehend his mood swings, which she gradually comes to understand as PTSD. Cartaya deftly sketches her family’s variable takes on Emilia’s heritage—her abuela touts their European roots and Emilia’s fair skin, while her mother highlights her Yoruba ancestry—and seamlessly weaves Spanish into the narrative. As a school project awakens Emilia’s awareness of her town, she takes an interest in timely immigration issues as well as economic and racial prejudices around proposed school redistricting, and she comes to recognize and confront a friend’s bigotry. The narrative appropriately tackles tough topics with grace through the lens of this memorable heroine. Ages 10–up. Agent: Jess Regel, Foundry Literary + Media.

  • AudioFile Magazine Author/narrator Pablo Cartaya easily transitions between English and Spanish, authentically representing the bilingual world of Cuban-American Emilia Rosa Torres, who has ADHD. Cartaya's emotional presentation allows listeners to feel Emilia's struggles when her stable homelife changes. Her mother travels for business, her father returns home from deployment, her abuela becomes even more controlling, and Emilia must adjust. Cartaya's nuanced narration shows how Emilia gradually reveals her true self, her voice gaining power in the face of her father's PTSD, shifts in friendships, and encounters with prejudice. As life grows more complex, Cartaya reveals the depth of a girl whose intelligence and love are strengthened by an awareness of her heritage, and the economic and social injustices around her. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award � AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine

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