Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya: A Little Guide to Spanish

One of the jobs of a good librarian is to advocate for her people. I feel the need to advocate for my people today.

I'm Hispanic. Not by birth, but by a somewhat precarious adoption into the tribe. I've worked hard to gain this admission by studying Spanish for thirty years and working and living with children, friends, and family who have close ties to Hispanic cultures.

So please trust me when I say that children are not often able to find their Hispanic cultures represented in books. And that is very sad.

But today I have good news. I present to you Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya.

Each Tiny Spark is the delightful story of young Emilia Torres, a girl who has difficulty keeping focused in school, who has a wonderful mom who helps her stay on track, a loving dad who has just returned from a deployment overseas, an assertive grandma who would like to guide her toward a traditional female Hispanic path, and a huge assortment of teachers and friends who tug her and prod her and encourage her and hinder her in the life she is creating for herself.

It's the conversations I love most in this book, the conversations with a generous mix of English and Spanish, the kind of conversations I hear all the time when I am among my friends and family.

If you speak Spanish, you are going to love Each Tiny Spark. If you don't, I urge you to give it a try. And to help you, I've created A Little Guide to Spanish, using words from this book. If you are like me, and you'd like to become just a bit more Hispanic or to simply connect with others a little better, you might try inserting these words into your everyday conversations and see what happens.

Full disclosure: I don't know every word in Spanish, so please bear with me if I've a few boo-boos here.

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.

Pre-order Here:

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 


  1. This sounds really good. I especially like that it portrays a Latinx family without guns, gangs, and violence.

  2. I like all the things you are an advocate for.


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