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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

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. 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 …

Each Tiny Spark

by Pablo Cartaya

Overall Book Review:

Each Tiny Spark is the latest novel by Latinx writer Pablo Cartaya.  After reading one of his other books, Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish, I was looking forward to seeing how he would handle a female main character in a book about embracing one’s unique heritage, talents, and idiosyncrasies.

The main character, Emilia, is a pretty standard 12-year-old girl.  She is an easily relatable character and middle grade audiences will likely find a lot of common ground on which to connect.  She struggles with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).  I appreciated that the author spent time and space in the book describing what it feels like for someone with this disorder as it really made you understand her character a bit better.

The book has a pretty straightforward plotline and is easy to follow.  You don’t get lost in the descriptions of the settings or in extraneous wording that doesn’t add to the story.  The one real drawback for me was that there was a lot of Spanish throughout the book that was not translated.  You can pick up from context or rephrasing by the next character the general meaning, but as a non-Spanish speaker I felt I missed out on a lot of rich detail.  Grab some Google translate if you don’t want to miss a beat.

This is a good middle grade read, but older young adult readers and even high school students may find this one a little lacking.  Middle school teachers may find this book a great springboard for discussing current hot political topics in a way that middle grade readers will understand. 

Review of an Advance Reading Copy

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Kokila

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  1 religious exclamation.

Violence/Gore:  Character receives and removes large splinter with minimal blood.

Sex/Nudity:  None

Mature Subject Matter:

Socioeconomic and racial conflict; immigration; social injustice; death of a parent; anxiety, ADHD; post-traumatic stress disorder; deployment. 

Alcohol / Drug Use:


Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

I am a full-time mom, full-time wife, and overtime reader. I have been an avid reader for as long as anyone can remember. It must run in the family because both my mother and grandmother are also voracious readers and often pass books back and forth. Almost any genre can spark my interest, but I often go in streaks, reading a bunch of books from one genre, then switching to another for a while and back again.