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Marcus Vega Doesn't Speak Spanish
Cover of Marcus Vega Doesn't Speak Spanish
Marcus Vega Doesn't Speak Spanish
One boy's search for his father leads him to Puerto Rico in this moving middle grade novel, for fans of Ghost and See You in the Cosmos.Marcus Vega is six feet tall, 180 pounds, and the owner of a...
One boy's search for his father leads him to Puerto Rico in this moving middle grade novel, for fans of Ghost and See You in the Cosmos.Marcus Vega is six feet tall, 180 pounds, and the owner of a...
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  • One boy's search for his father leads him to Puerto Rico in this moving middle grade novel, for fans of Ghost and See You in the Cosmos.
    Marcus Vega is six feet tall, 180 pounds, and the owner of a premature mustache. When you look like this and you're only in the eighth grade, you're both a threat and a target.
    After a fight at school leaves Marcus facing suspension, Marcus's mom decides it's time for a change of environment. She takes Marcus and his younger brother to Puerto Rico to spend a week with relatives they don't remember or have never met. But Marcus can't focus knowing that his father—who walked out of their lives ten years ago—is somewhere on the island.
    So begins Marcus's incredible journey, a series of misadventures that take him all over Puerto Rico in search of his elusive namesake. Marcus doesn't know if he'll ever find his father, but what he ultimately discovers changes his life. And he even learns a bit of Spanish along the way.
 

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Excerpts-

  • From the book ONE
    Monster Business
     
    Most kids clear out of the way when I walk down the hall. They’re like campers in a forest who spot a grizzly and scramble up a tree to hide. (Or, in this case, climb into a locker.) I’ve been called the Mastodon of Montgomery Middle, the Springfield Skyscraper, the Moving Mountain, the Terrible Tower, the . . . You get the idea.
    These names bothered me in sixth grade when I was excited to start middle school and make friends. But now, in eighth grade, my size has become a profit center. And business is booming.
    Take these two kids sitting down in the back corner of the library (my office), fidgeting like I’m going to eat them or something. One has practically chewed off his fingernails, and the other one’s leg won’t stop bouncing.
    I hear them whispering.
    “What?” I say.
    “Is it true?” the kid asks. “That you carried forty two chairs to the auditorium? By yourself?”
    I stare. “Yes.”
    Actually it was only eight chairs, but these are the kinds of rumors that are good for business.
    “Incredible.”
    They start whispering to each other again.
    “We’re wondering if we could procure your walking services, Mr. Marcus?”
    “Don’t call me that.”
    At the start of the school year, a bunch of sixth graders confused me for a teacher while they were trying to find the auditorium. I told them they’d better figure out where they needed to go or I was going to collect a tax from them for getting in the way. They ran. Soon a rumor started spreading that I was really an undercover assistant principal hired to keep kids in line. It’s kind of ridiculous, but things at Montgomery often are.
    The rumors about me have gone from fantastical (Godzilla with a crew cut) to realistic (assistant principal). It’s really annoying. But like I said, I’ve found a way to make it work for me. These two kids are here for my walking service, the crown jewel of my business.
    “Five bucks a week to walk each of you to school,” I say. “And five bucks to get you home. Your total invoice is ten per week.”
    “Each of us?” The kid seems surprised.
    “I could walk you halfway for half the price.”
    They look at each other a moment.
    “That’s my blue-plate special,” I say.
    “No, we’ll take the whole service. Thank you.”
    “Where do you live?”
    “I live on Maple and Vine,” one kid says.
    The other kid chimes in with, “I’m on Vine and North Cherry Hill Drive.”
    I already walk four other kids who live in the Cherry Hill neighborhood, so two more isn’t a big deal. I can’t charge them more than ten bucks, or parents will start to wonder. The way I see it, it’s a win-win for everyone. I’m making some money, and these kids are getting protection from bullying on their walks to and from school. I’m doing a service. People pay for bodyguards all the time. That’s what I am to these kids—a big, bad bodyguard.
    “Hey,” I tell them before they run off to class.
    “There’s a deposit. Five bucks each.”
    I always take a deposit for my services. It’s like insurance money. They both pull out fives and hand them to me. Then they quickly get out of my office.
    Most of my business transactions happen in the small cubicle located behind a shelf at the far end of the library. The school librarian lets me hang there whenever I want. I usually take a stack of books to read while I...

Reviews-

  • School Library Journal

    June 1, 2018

    Gr 4-7-This middle grade story, set in Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico, pulls together important themes of family, identity, bilingualism, friends, and bullying. Marcus Vega navigates his six-foot-tall, 180-pound frame through middle school while also caring for his younger sibling, Charlie, who has Down Syndrome. Because of his large size, some of his peers consider him to be a monster, or even a bully. When a real bully uses the "R" word in reference to Charlie, Marcus punches him in the jaw. This begins a series of events in which he is expelled from school before spring break, causing his mother to take the boys to Puerto Rico where they are introduced to their father's extended family for the first time. Marcus decides to locate his long-absent father and over the course of five days, readers travel the island with him as he is introduced to its rich flora and fauna, foods, community life, music, and friendliness. Marcus eventually comes to terms with his life challenges, including his own identity. VERDICT An excellent choice for upper elementary and middle grade libraries given its multiple, age-appropriate themes and the window it provides to life in a Puerto Rico before Hurricane María.-Ruth Quiroa, National Louis University, Lisle, IL

    Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    In searching for his absentee father, a biracial boy gets closer to his Puerto Rican roots.Though Marcus Vega was born in Puerto Rico, the 14-year-old hasn't been back since he was 2. Marcus lives outside of Philadelphia with his mom, a white woman, and his little brother, Charlie, who has Down syndrome. Marcus towers over the other kids, and he uses his size to his advantage, walking kids to and from school and stashing their phones in his locker (out of the principal's reach) for cash. After a school bully calls Charlie "the one word that sends [him] into a blind rage," Marcus punches him in the mouth and is suspended. Marcus' mom decides that the three of them should go on a trip to regroup, which is how they find themselves in Puerto Rico looking for the dad Marcus hasn't seen in 10 years, a search that takes them and readers all over the island. Immigrant and first-generation readers will relate to Marcus' feelings of not belonging in Puerto Rico. Marcus' eagerness to reconnect with the father who abandoned him is believably naïve and allows him to overlook his relatives' criticisms of his dad, but both they and Cartaya allow him the space to come to his own conclusions. Readers familiar with Puerto Rico may find Marcus' extended family's ease with English a little hard to believe, but it does assist with the narrative flow.A compelling read about the meaning of family, identity, and culture, set in pre-Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. (Online Review)

  • Publisher's Weekly

    July 9, 2018
    In Springfield, Pa., Marcus, a six-foot tall, 180-pound, mustache-sporting 14-year-old, exploits his appearance to run a bullying protection business, secretly contributing his earnings to his single mom’s cash jar. When a conniving school bully calls Marcus’s brother, Charlie, who has Down syndrome, the “R” word, Marcus gets suspended for punching him. In an effort to “spend time together as a team,” Marcus’s mother takes the boys to visit their absent father’s relatives in vibrant pre-Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico. Cartaya (The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora) poignantly sketches Marcus’s desire to meet his father (“How do you start an email to a father you haven’t seen in ten years?”), and clues about his dad’s mercurial, irresponsible character build to a devastating realization. The loneliness of the family’s Pennsylvania life contrasts starkly with the community they find in Puerto Rico; the events spark for Marcus a new understanding of his overworked mother and appreciation for his family and heritage, offering hope for deeper connections going forward. Ages 10–up. Agent: Jess Regel, Foundry Literary + Media.

  • DOGO Books satwikagejara - Marcus Vega is really big for his age. His brother has Down Syndrome. Marcus is collecting money off of his principal’s rules. His family doesn’t have a lot of money and it is just him, his mom, and his brother Charlie. After Marcus punches a boy for calling his brother a retard, his mom decides that it is time to take a break with her family. They go to Puerto Rico to see all of his family there, but what Marcus is interested in is finding his father. I love the diversity of this book and the fact that the book is based on the author's own experiences. Everyone should read this book because it is spectacular in many ways.

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    Penguin Young Readers Group
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