Without her mom around, the house just doesn't feel like home. Gaby's father, who split from her mom a few years back, re-entered the scene when her mom was taken away. He's no longer as happy nor as comforting as Gaby remembers him: now he's always grumpy, and when he's not at work, he's complaining about the people at work. The following line is just one of many that nails Gaby's situation and will break your heart:
Maybe once upon a time he had wanted a daughter, but now he looked at Gaby like she was just another job he wanted to quit. - Page 110
Lucky, Gaby finds solace in her best friend, Alma Gomez, and her family, who warmly and regularly welcome Gaby at their house. Bold, bossy Alma has no problem standing up to girls at school who make fun of Gaby's mom, and Alma's parents help keep Gaby fed and safe after school and on weekends, whenever she needs them.
When her sixth-grade class begins volunteering at the local no-kill animal shelter, Gaby feels an immediate connection to Feather, a fragile little cat who was abandoned by her owners. Gaby considers herself to be a stray, just like Feather, in need of a stable home. She yearns to adopt the striped kitty, and though her mom would have allowed it, she knows her father won't. She becomes the "shelter scribe," writing personalized (purrsonalized!) ads about the cats and dogs that are up for adoption and putting the flyers around town in an effort to find the critters their "forever homes." She also bonds with the vet, Dr. V, whose boisterous spirit fills the shelter and makes it a fun place to be.
When something not-so-good happens and Gaby has the opportunity to take Feather, how can she resist? And will Gaby's mom ever make it back home?
Gaby, Lost and Found by Angela Cervantes will tug at your heartstrings. The writing is simply honest, especially in scenes with Gaby, Alma, and their friends, or moments when Gaby's trying to figure out what she should do. The plot will appeal to kids, and the steady pacing will keep them reading. Give it to future veterinarians and humanitarians, and don't be afraid to let it start a conversation about immigration as well as different kinds of jobs and different family situations. It's important that kids see themselves in stories, be they books, TV shows, movies, or songs. It's also important that kids whose families are more fortunate than Gaby's learn to appreciate what they have and respect that not all households may be like theirs. Additionally, I hope the story will encourage kids to seek out volunteer opportunities in their community, to report bullying in their schools, and to accept responsibility for their actions. Recommended for ages 8 and up.
A few lines that draw clear parallels between the protagonist and the strays:
"Feather is a strong cat to have survived on her own for as long as she did, but she's still fragile." - Dr. V, page 149
"Cats this young shouldn't be separated from their mom." - Mrs. Gomez, page 164
- and the reason why Gaby's mom, and now Gaby, always keeps a saucer on the front porch:
"It's easy para ti to scare them off, but I've been that cat," [Gaby's mom] said. "I know how it feels to be the one looking for food and a safe place." - page 9
Also, Gaby rescues a cat in the opening scene. Blake Snyder would approve.
If you like this book, you should also check out my booklist entitled Cats Cats Cats as well as my Tough Issues for Teens booklist.