Cover image for Each tiny spark
Title:
Each tiny spark
ISBN:
9780451479723
Physical Description:
315 pages ; 22 cm.
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Summary:
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.
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Summary

Summary

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 Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya is a tender story about asking big questions and being brave enough to reckon with the answers.


Author Notes

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 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (Aug.)


Booklist Review

If you've ever wondered how it is inside the mind of a person with inattentive type ADHD, this book offers a peek. Emilia Rosa struggles with her distractibility, but when something interests her, like tinkering with old cars or the controversies surrounding some district rezoning in her Georgia town, she latches on and digs deep. Her middle-school social studies project on local tourism brings out the activist in her, leading to a chain reaction that causes some minor hullaballoo in her school. Meanwhile, Emilia is trying to reconnect with her father, who's home from active duty; missing her mother, who's working away from home; and struggling to understand her abuela. This story covers themes like honoring your roots, seeking the truth, cultivating empathy, and being a good communicator. Besides a look at a distractible thinker's thought processes, this book also offers insight on the immigrant experience. For Emilia, all it takes is one, tiny spark to get the ball rolling, and plenty of kids will relate to her passion and perseverance.--Kristina Pino Copyright 2010 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

WHEN IT COMES to crossing the border between childhood and adolescence, sixth grade functions as customs department. Elementary travelers, supremely confident on their home soil, enter their inaugural year of middle school clutching their locker combinations like passports. A few crushes, heartbreaks and misunderstood text messages later, they emerge on the other side, wide-eyed and wiser at having declared their intentions and identity. Three new novels explore this transition, preparing readers for their tumultuous journey into tweendom. THE 47 PEOPLE YOU'LL MEET IN MIDDLE SCHOOL (Knopf, 304 pp., $16.99; ages 8 to 12), by Kristin Mahoney, is a literal guidebook to this new land. Big sister Augusta, or Gus, attempts to explain the mysteries of sixth grade to little Lou by describing all the characters she encounters at Meridian Middle. (Thankfully, unlike the main character in the similarly named adult novel by Mitch Albom, Gus doesn't have to die first.) The lineup includes several familiar folks who will be instantly recognizable to current and former middle schoolers, including the "scary teacher," the "friend you don't recognize because she turned into a whole new person over the summer" and the "kid with questionable hygiene." As she proceeds through the list, a story emerges of Gus's slowly growing confidence, the reverberating impact of an amicable but still distressing divorce on her family, and the exciting, frustrating process of finding "your people... the ones who make you feel at home in your own skin," as explained by amiable Mrs. Barakat, the "favorite teacher." While many of the scenarios Gus outlines are prosaic (the ill-advised snoop in the teacher's desk, the school dance that goes all kinds of wrong), she does have a memorable #MeToo moment when she brings down "The Gooser," the school's notorious butt-pincher, via anonymous note. Because even in the minds of modern middle schoolers well versed in antibullying rhetoric, snitches can still get stitches. As Gus wearily observes, "Sometimes you can't depend on teachers to save the day." If Gus occasionally sounds a tad too perceptive for a sixth grader ("It was like I didn't just need physical space; I also needed space in my head. For all the things I was starting to wonder about more"), it works here, because, as every middle school student (and parent) knows, "Reflecting is a big thing middle school teachers are into." What this novel's target audience wants is reassurance, which Gus's confused yet consoling voice provides in spades. IN PABLO CARTAYA'S EACH TINY SPARK (Kokila, 315 pp., $16.99; ages 8 to 12), a Sixth grader who already feels different because of her A.D.H.D. diagnosis begins to feel like a stranger in her own suburban Atlanta town. When Emilia is assigned to create a tourist guide for Merryville, she starts to see the cultural differences and economic inequalities between her community and that of Park View, a neighboring district. These discrepancies are further highlighted by a proposal to move hundreds of students from overcrowded Park View schools to upscale Merryville Middle. When Emilia's project calls attention to the disparities, she unwittingly fuels a bitter confrontation between her divided classmates. But the disagreement also fires up the students and ignites a palpable interest in the social justice history of their town. Through research conducted with a quintessentially cheerful public librarian, Emilia is at first delighted to discover the outsize role Mexican immigrants played in constructing the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics infrastructure, then dismayed to learn that Georgia's current immigration laws could now force those same people to be deported. The project spurs Emelia's personal growth, helping her navigate equally challenging situations at home, including a distant father who's freshly returned from a lengthy military deployment, and generational conflict between her traditional Catholic abuela and progressive, Afro-Cuban mom. Emilia's dialogue with her familia and her best friend, Gustavo, is sprinkled with Spanish expressions and sentences, adding a welcome ambient cultural tone to the story that encourages non-Spanish readers to draw meaning from context. While the social justice plot will appeal to today's increasingly civic-minded students, where Cartaya really excels is depicting what it feels like inside Emilia's brain. In his author's note, he reveals that his own child has A.D.H.D., and explains with an easy knowledge how Emilia's brain can pingpong from subject to subject when she's distracted ("My middle name is Rose also. Actually, it's Rosa - same as my mom's middle name. Emilia Rosa... on the History Channel I watched a show about a time in England called the War of the Roses. There were two families fighting for the crown and they had a brutal war for centuries") but then home in to a razor focus when she's engaged in something she loves, like the car restoration project she takes on with her dad: "The heat rises and pours out of the gun, sending sparks in every direction. The dark glass protecting my eyes lights up, and the clack-clack-clack illuminates sparks all around me ... they die down as I release the trigger. I place the welding gun safely on the workbench and flip up my shade." Learning the basics of welding from Papi, Emilia finally breaks through her father's emotional wall and earns the nickname "Chispita" ("little spark"). Readers will be inspired by her dogged determination and propulsive curiosity to generate and nurture their own sparks of creativity, leadership or passion. ELEVEN-YEAR-OLD Willa IS Still In fifth grade, but sixth looms large in her imagination throughout NOT IF I CAN HELP IT (Scholastic, 240 pp., $16.99, ages 8 to 12), by Carolyn Mackler. Willa has sensory processing disorder, which for her means an extreme aversion to certain tastes, textures and smells, combined with swings in energy and mood. Socks feel too tight, showers are "too many prickles poking my skin, too much water in my eyes." Her occupational therapist gives her coping strategies for controlling her body, and she maintains a private routine of reminders and checklists at home so she can keep her condition a secret at school, even from her best friend, Ruby. Because of this, Willa dreads change of any kind, and no change is more unavoidable than sixth grade. It is middle school acceptance letter season at her elementary school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and everyone is speculating about where they will be next year. What if she doesn't get into the school of her choice? Worse yet, "what if Ruby and I get into different middle schools and have to be ripped apart after only one year of best friendship? That would be the worst kind of change ever." Willa's worries are quickly replaced by much bigger concerns after Willa's dad and Ruby's mom, both divorced, announce that they have been quietly dating for a year and are considering marriage. While Ruby is thrilled that she and Willa could be stepsisters, Willa is immediately thrown into a tailspin. "I don't want new smells, new furniture, new foods in the fridge ... but mostly I don't want to hide who I am, all the Private Willa stuff, in my own home." And there's the sock rub. If Ruby joins her family and discovers the truth, will she still want to be Willa's best friend? After all, "a friend is nice to have over, but friends go home. They don't stay forever." Like Pablo Cartaya, Mackler is also the parent of a neurodivergent child. She writes convincingly and compassionately of Willa's particular struggles, in an insecure yet ebullient voice that also captures the universal awkwardness of being 11. Who wouldn't relate to the fear of being exposed? By weaving sensory processing disorder in with more typical issues of privacy, divorce and friendship woes, Mackler explains behaviors that children often make fun of but never ask about. Willa's experience will be a revelation to kids who didn't know about the disorder, and a comfort to those who share her condition or know someone who does. Middle school is the very embodiment of the familiar phrase "It's not the destination, it's the journey," and these smartly rendered books are worthy travel companions for young adventurers making their first trip.


School Library Journal Review

Gr 4--7--There's a lot going on in Emilia Torres's life. On the day her mom leaves town for a job interview, her dad gets home from a long deployment and something isn't quite right with him. Abuela is trying to run her life, Emilia has an unusual type of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and, worst of all, a class assignment splits students down the middle and creates a rift between kids who have been friends for years. As difficult as it is for her to focus, can Emilia figure out how to placate her grandmother and help her dad heal while standing up against injustice? Cartaya excels at showing realistic tween drama--no explosions, jumping off cliffs, or magic fairies here. However, there's a lot going on, and it may be as hard for younger readers to keep track of everything as it is for Emilia. Although Emilia's problems are not all neatly resolved by the last page, she grows stronger as she moves forward, which is an inspiring conclusion for readers facing their own complicated life situations. VERDICT Hand to tween fans of realistic fiction, especially those who have enjoyed Cartaya's earlier books.--Elizabeth Friend, Wester Middle School, TX


Kirkus Review

A nuanced novel about a neurodiverse preteen's political and social awakening by a Pura Belpr Honor-winning author.Sixth grader Emilia Rosa Torres sometimes has a hard time keeping up with schoolwork and concentrating on one thing at a time, but her software-developer mother and superinvolved abuelita help her keep on task. Days before her father's return to their Atlanta suburb from his most recent deployment, her mother goes on a business trip, leaving the middle schooler to juggle his mood swings, her friend troubles, and her looming assignments all on her own. When a social studies project opens her eyes to injustices past and present, Emilia begins to find her voice and use it to make an impact on her community. Writing with sensitivity and respectful complexity, Cartaya tackles weighty issues, such as immigration, PTSD, and microaggressions, through the lens of a budding tinkerer and activist who has ADHD. The members of this Cuban American family don't all practice the same religion, with Emilia's Catholic grandmother faithfully attending Mass multiple times a week and the protagonist's mother celebrating her culture's Yoruba roots with Santera. Conversations on race and gender crop up through the narrative as Emilia's grandmother likes to emphasize her family's European heritageEmilia can pass as white, with her fair complexion, light eyes and auburn hair. All of these larger issues are effortlessly woven in with skill and humor, as is the Spanish her family easily mixes with English.A pitch-perfect middle-grade novel that insightfully explores timely topics with authenticity and warmth. (author's note) (Fiction. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Excerpts

Excerpts

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 yellow-green colors. I don't have Mom's complexion. One that, as she once said, shows she is a "descendant of the Yoruba." "Emilia viene de sangre española," Abuela replied. "She resembles my side of the family." "She may have some Spanish ancestry," Mom said. "But she also has West African blood coursing through her veins. She needs to know all parts of her heritage, not just the European one--" "Bueno," Abuela interrupted. "Remember, most of our family came from Spain. And some from Ireland. That's why your hair is that color, mi'ja." "Si, pero you can't deny the orishas guide her spiritual journey as well," Mom said. "Aye, muchacha," Abuela responded, clearly frustrated. "She's baptized Catholic."   "You baptized her Catholic, Aurelia," Mom said. Then she whispered to me loudly enough for Abuela to hear: "No matter what, nunca dudes lo que está in your mind and spirit, mi amor. That, and sea como sea, our Yoruba heritage teaches us to respect your elders." Mom kissed my forehead. I smiled. Abuela frowned. "Come on," Mom says now. "Let's eat breakfast." "Espérate." Abuela stops me before I head out. She slathers her hands with gel and smooths the hair at the top of my forehead so it's flat against my scalp. I stare at myself in her full-length mirror as the plaster­ing continues. My eyes follow Abuela's arm to the short cylindrical can she's digging into. Actually, it's pomade she's using. Not gel. Pomade is greasier and stays in my hair longer. It gives it a slick sheen, but honestly, I hate it because it takes forever to wash out. I don't say anything, though. We walk downstairs, past the dining room that leads into the kitchen. Mom and I start our daily ritual of making café con leche, with a little slice of Cuban toast and melted butter, plus a large glass of my daily spinach-peanut-butter-banana-and-almond-milk smoothie. "Doctor's recommendations!" Mom says, pouring the last of the smoothie into my glass. "Why do I have to drink that horrible green monster every morning? It leaves specks of green in my teeth." "It's not that bad! Here, take your fish oil pill." "I hate that thing!" "The doctor did say it's a natural way to help you concentrate." Mom tries to add healthy foods into my diet all the time. She says it will help with my lack of focus. I think she's just trying to cut out sugar. Which I love. As the coffee brews, the sweet and bitter smell wafts my way. Whoever figured out that those opposite tastes could blend together so perfectly in a coffee drink was a genius. Mom puts her arm around me, and I lean into her shoulder. "What's up, Not-Buttercup?" she jokes. I perk up and smile. I recently saw an old movie called The Princess Bride with Mom and Abuela. It's about this princess named Buttercup who falls in love with a guy named Westley. At one point in the movie, they're in a forest and these gigantic rats attack them. Westley falls to the ground while wrestling the rat, but Buttercup doesn't do anything. There's a humongous rat chewing on Westley's shoulder, and Buttercup doesn't even pick up a stick to bash it! She just stands there screaming for Westley to save her. It really annoyed me. Mom and Abuela eyed each other and said they never saw the movie that way. Mom rubs my shoulder and gives it a squeeze. "Ready for school?" "No," I say, looking out the kitchen window, slurping up the last of my smoothie. Mom goes to the toaster and pulls out the warm bread and cuts it in half. Steam rises when she adds butter, and it melts instantly. She moves the knife like she's conducting an orchestra across each slice. My mouth feels dry, but it's not because I'm thirsty. "Do you have to leave?" I ask her. "Yes, baby girl. The conference starts tomorrow." "But it's, like, a thirty-hour time difference, Mom." "It's San Francisco, mi amor. Not China. And it's only a little more than a week. Who knows? Something exciting could come of it." "Like what?" I ask, moving over to help her. I grab a paper towel and start wiping the loose crumbs off the counter. "We'll see! Anyway, Dad is coming home tonight," she tells me. "You'll get some one-on-one time with him for a few days!" "And apparently he's okay with your mother leaving even though he's been gone for eight months," Abuela says, stern at the kitchen door. It doesn't seem to faze Mom at all. She's used to what she calls Abuela's "puyas"--side comments meant to get under her skin. Abuela throws shade like a chameleon changes colors. Mom rubs my forearm and squeezes my hand a little. "Bueno, Aurelia, luckily my husband and I have commu­nicated, and fortunately for both of us, we understand that our jobs may require a certain amount of travel on occa­sion. As I'm sure you've experienced over the years with his deployments." Abuela huffs and leaves the kitchen. Mom exhales slowly. "How do you not get flustered by her, Mom?" "Patience, mi amor," Mom says. "The older you get, the more important patience becomes." I glance over at my backpack and think about all the classes I have and how Mom is always there to help organize my work and how I can't let Abuela help me because she won't understand and suddenly I feel the vibrating in my head that happens sometimes when I get nervous. It's like a whole bunch of little bees buzzing around and it's hard to concentrate. "Mom, who's going to help me with my homework when you're gone?" "Dad will!" The calendar Mom and I go over every Monday morning to help me organize the week sits in front of me. Friday is circled with two little stars and a question mark next to it. "Oh, Mom! Clarissa is having a party on Friday. Can I go?" "It's Monday, Emilia. And that's not really relevant to our discussion, is it?" "So?" "Well, we're talking about your dad coming home tonight and since it's Monday, I think planning for your school week is the priority, don't you think?" "Mom, please don't start that priority-organizational thinking thing again. I know it's Monday." "Okay, but you have a math--" "I know! Geez." I take a breath and exhale. Patience . . . Right. "Don't make that face," she says. "What face?" "The one that looks like you ate day-old bacalao." Mom drops her upper lip and her eyes sag a little. "I hate salted cod," I tell her. "Oye, your ancestors are probably rolling in their graves." I drop my head onto my mom's shoulder again. When I lift it, she hands me her mug. "Bueno, at least you like café con leche." I take a sip, and everything comes into focus. There is nothing like café con leche. Nothing. "C'mon, mi amor. Let's hang out a little before the bus gets here," she says. Mom pats my back and heads to the dining room, carry­ing the café con leche. I follow her with the buttery Cuban toast and sit at the dining table, where we've done home­work together hundreds of times. Probably thousands. Maybe millions. Abuela moves past us to the kitchen. "Should we get him balloons or a sign or something?" I ask. "No, you know he doesn't like a big welcome like that," Mom says. "Be there with a hug and tell him you're glad he's home." "Well, I am glad he's home. I just wish you were going to be home too." "I know, baby. But this is going to be good. Trust me." "Yeah, yeah," I say, swinging my feet and munching on toast and talking about the week ahead. She likes to go over my agenda for the week, but it's kind of annoying because sometimes that's all she talks about. "So, you got it?" "Hmm?" "Your stuff for the week, sweetheart," she says. "Math test Thursday. You have a vocabulary test Friday. What do you have for social studies?" "Oh, Clarissa's party! I can go, right?" "Emilia," Mom says, using my name like a sharp-edged sword to make her point. "I need to be able to go on this trip knowing you're ready for the week." "Yes, Mom, you've told me, like, a hundred times!" "And social studies?" "What about it?" "What do you have for Mr. Richt's class this week?" "I don't know, something. Maybe a test." "Maybe? Do I have to call?" "No, Mami! Please, can we just talk about something else?" She lets out a sigh. "Okay, mi amor. What do you want to talk about?" I ask her about her trip, where she's going to present this cool new translation app she designed. "Are you going to speak in front of a ton of people?" "I hope not!" she says. "I hate speaking in front of people." "But you have to talk about it." "Oh, I have no problem talking one-on-one," she says. "I just hate talking in front of big crowds. Me da pánico." "You won't panic, Mom," I tell her. "It's going to be awesome." "I hope so. It'll be a game changer." I hear the bus rounding the corner, rumbling like a grumpy yellow rhino that hasn't had coffee yet. Would a rhino drink café con leche? Probably. I wish I had a remote control that could pause the bus for a moment longer. "It's time to go, mi amor." Mom gets up and hugs me. "I'm going to miss you," I tell her. Her curls wrap around my shoulders like a dark rain cloud that blocks out the sun and cools the sky. "I'll call when I land," she says, kissing my forehead. "And you call me for anything. Okay?" "I will," I say, getting up and heading to the door. Abuela comes back into the dining room and hands me a waffle wrapped in a napkin. The syrup drips onto the napkin and the paper sticks to the waffle. I try to peel it off, but the syrup has already glued it in place. "Tienes que desayunar más," Abuela says. "Ya comí, Abuela," I reply, showing her my mostly eaten toast. She shakes her head. "Pero that tiny piece of bread and that green milkshake aren't enough," she says. "You have to have a full stomach at school, Emilia Rosa." Mom steps in and takes the waffle out of my hand. "Aurelia," Mom says. "We talked about this, remem­ber? Her doctor suggested eliminating sugar to see what effect it has on her inattentiveness." "And the café con leche you gave her this morning? That has sugar." "It has almond milk and a tiny bit of agave in it."   Abuela shakes her head, then lets out a humph before taking the waffle from my mom. "Whoever heard of café con leche with agave?" she mutters loudly enough for both of us to hear. Mom steps around her to hug me one more time. "Don't let her get to you," she whispers. Abuela frowns. Mom kisses me on the nose and playfully pats my side. "Love you, baby." "Love you too, Mom," I say, heading outside. "Have a good trip." "Thanks, mi amor." "Bye, Abuela," I say, quickly pecking her on the cheek and grabbing my backpack. "Have a good day, mi'ja," she responds. The bus is already in front of our house when I step outside. Its doors swing open, and I turn back to look at Mom one more time. Abuela calls out and rushes to the bus before I get on. She holds my head, tucks a few loose strands of hair behind my ears, and tightens my bow. "Perfect," she says. I think about taking a deep breath, but I just get on the bus. It feels like my whole life is changing. Like everything that's normal is becoming the opposite. We've been like this for so long--me, Mom, and Abuela. Now that Mom is leaving and Dad is coming home--with Abuela probably in charge--I'm not sure what to expect. Excerpted from Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.