By Cindy L. Rodriguez
DESCRIPTION FROM THE BOOK JACKET: When Gaby Ramirez Howard starts volunteering at the local animal shelter, she takes special pride in writing adoption advertisements. Her flyers help the dogs and cats there find their forever homes: places where they’ll be loved and cared for, no matter what.
Gaby is in need of a forever home herself. Her mother has recently been deported to Honduras and Gaby doesn’t know where to turn. Meanwhile, Gaby’s favorite shelter cat, Feather, needs a new place to live. Gaby would love to adopt her–but if Gaby doesn’t have a place that feels like home to her, how can she help Feather?
MY TWO CENTS: I’m a sucker for stray animals and have more than once scooped up a roaming dog and delivered him to a non-kill animal shelter. So, Angela Cervantes had me from Chapter 1, which places the protagonist Gaby up a tree trying to rescue a cat. From this point on, Cervantes presents Gaby’s story with a great mix of heart-wrenching moments and humor. Some parts of the book are light and soooo middle school–I know; I teach in one–while other parts deal with the more serious issue of deportation and the effects on children when a parent is gone.
Since her mother has been deported to Honduras, Gaby must live with her father, who is ill-equipped to raise a sixth-grade girl. Gaby would much rather live with her best friend Alma and her family. Better yet would be if her mom were able to come back home, but this trip is expensive and dangerous.
Cervantes parallels Gaby’s situation with the sixth-grade class community project at the Furry Friends Animal Shelter. Both the animals and Gaby have less than ideal living arrangements are in need of new permanent homes. During the community service project, Gaby has the special job of writing descriptions of the animals on fliers that will be displayed around town and on the shelter’s website.
Eventually, Gaby writes a flier for herself. In part it reads:
Gaby Ramirez Howard: …Three months ago, my mom was deported, and now I live with my father, who looks at me like I’m just another job he wants to quit. I’m seeking a home where I can invite my best friend over and have a warm breakfast a couple times a week. Waffles and scrambled eggs are my favorite!
GAH! My heart, Angela Cervantes!!
In between the chapters that caused me to clutch my heart and give my daughter random hugs, I literally laughed out loud. Scenes with the four friends–Gaby, Alma, Enrique, and Marcos–are hysterical. In one, Alma, who is trying to train a spirited shelter dog named Spike, tests the commands on the boys. “Back! Down! Sit and stay!” In another scene, three firefighters arrive at the shelter to adopt a dog for the firehouse. Alma says to the other girls, “Let’s go see what’s smoking,” and then the girls nickname each of the cute firefighters: Hottie, Smokey, and Sizzler. Very funny.
If you are a middle school teacher, librarian, or parent, you should have a copy of this book on your shelf. To make it easy for you, Angela Cervantes is giving away a signed copy of Gaby, Lost and Found, along with a poster and T-shirt. Click on the Rafflecopter link here to enter.
TEACHING TIPS: Gaby, Lost and Found could be used in a Language Arts or social studies classroom. In Language Arts, students could track the plot and make predictions along the way about how Gaby’s situation will be resolved. Students could also be creative and write “fliers” for any number of people or things: their siblings, pets, themselves. A social studies could easily use the novel in a unit about the history of immigration in the United States. Ideally, after reading non-fiction texts, students could read a novel-length book–either fiction or narrative nonfiction–that centers on immigration. In addition to Gaby, Lost and Found, teachers could offer books about people from other countries so that students could compare/contrast immigrant experiences.
AUTHOR: Angela Cervantes was born and raised in Kansas, with most of her childhood spent in Topeka in the Mexican-American community of Oakland. Angela has a degree in English and an MBA, and she is the co-founder of Las Poetas, a Chicana poetry group that has developed into the Latino Writers Collective. In 2005, her short story, “Pork Chop Sandwiches,” was published in Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul. In 2007, she won third place for Creative Nonfiction in the Missouri Review’s audio competition for her story “House of Women” and Kansas City Voices’ Best of Prose Award for her short story, “Ten Hail Marys.” In 2008, she was recognized as one of Kansas City’s Emerging Writers by the Kansas City Star Magazine.
Gaby, Lost and Found is her first novel.