by Pablo Cartaya
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.
I don't read a lot of middle grade books - but I am always thankful when I am given the chance to read and review one. I do believe that Each Tiny Spark is the first middle grade that I read as an adult that has truly grabbed my attention and made me want to share it with the world.
Each Tiny Spark is a story about Emilia Torres - a lovely girl in the 6th grade who has Inattentive ADHD. She knows that she can only study inside her home, and not in the body shop office her grandma owns with her best friend, Gus. She knows she needs to go over her schedule every week with her mother - paying extra attention to test days and project deadlines. Emilia and those around her, family, teachers, and friends, are still learning and learning how to support Emilia to help her succeed. Emilia is bright and inquisitive and just a wonderful girl. Her story is about how it is to live in an ever-changing, coming of age time of her life where friendships are changing, she needs to rely on herself more than ever, and all while coming to terms to seeing her father who has been deployed most of Emilia's life since she was four years old.
I loved this book for a variety of reasons. First of all, I loved that Emilia is a diverse character in more ways than one. She is a person of color, plus she has Inattentive ADHD. She represents a group of individuals who I feel are not focused on in our fictional stories (or non-fictional, to be honest). Emilia and her friend Gus, as well as Emilia and Gus's family, talk in Spanish and - as a Mexican American woman - I loved seeing the language on the page without a translation. I can't fully explain why this made me so happy because it's not like I mind translational sentences after foreign sentences, but it made it flow so well for me.
This book is definitely for everyone. We can all relate in one way or another to Emilia's struggles and worries. However, I especially recommend it to my fellow POC, especially the younger ones who need to see themselves represented in our fiction.