Allison's Book Bag

Posts Tagged ‘animal rescue

Saturday Snapshot invites bloggers to share photos. After a fall of changes, I’m here to introduce you to the newest member of our household.

August 18, I received an email from my friend Kathy asking me if I knew anyone who could foster a kitten. That email changed our household.

Initially, I emailed all my rescue friends for advice. To my surprise, when I later mentioned the kitten to Andy, he instantly reminded me about his desire to foster a kitten.

After that point, my emails took on a different focus. Now I wanted to find a rescue that would allow us to foster, but would ultimately be responsible for finding a forever home for Kathy’s rescue kitten.

From the start, Rainy endeared herself to us because not only did she love to play, but she also enjoyed snuggling next to Andy and me. While Cinder has her own ways of showing affection, being a lapcat isn’t one of them. ;-(

Not aware that we were only fostering her, Rainy made herself at home. She began to join Barnaby in greeting us when we would leave or return from work. She also became friends with him, as well as our other two cats.

A peaceful household didn’t happen overnight. Rainy actually became the glue that pulled all of our pets together. She never accepted rejection from any of them, but just kept initiating play. After several days, all three cats began to play more on their own, with her, and together.

Seeing how happy she made all our pets made for an easy decision. On September 12, we adopted Rainy.

Welcome Rainy to our home! We love you.

AngelaCervantesGaby Lost and Found by Angela Cervantes is one of those books which has stuck with me. Since reviewing it in February, I have submitted it for reprint with our local dog club. Although I had already been helping out at a nearby no-kill shelter, after reading Gaby Lost and Found, I ended up volunteering to write some dog bios and articles for one of our local animal rescue groups. It’s my great pleasure then to have the opportunity to interview Angela Cervantes.

The idea for Gaby Lost and Found started when Cervantes was driving and saw a little girl walking her black and white cat. She had never seen anyone walk a cat before and it got me thinking about her story and the cat’s story and how they found each other. Gaby, Lost and Found was also her first attempt at a novel. Cervantes had no idea about the different writing routines and processes for writing a novel. She just had that spark of inspiration. The first draft took nine months. Then there were a couple of years of revisions, where is where Gaby’s story fully blossomed. After a couple of submissions, Cervantes got the call every author wants, the one where she’s told there’s an offer on her book. 

ALLISON: Many authors describe a childhood filled with reading of books and writing of scribbles. How else did you fill your time as a child?

ANGELA: I definitely wrote and read a lot as a child. I also loved to play with paper dolls and play Charlie Angels with my girlfriends. I think that sort of acting out stories whether with paper dolls or playing a Charlie Angel helped me become a writer. It was all about coming up with a storyline, plot twists, and creating different characters.

ALLISON: Was your adolescence more of a happy or sad one? How so?

ANGELA: Super happy. My mom, a former school teacher, is a creative soul who plays the piano, writes, and paints. All of our childhood, she encouraged my three siblings and I to explore our creative, artistic sides. We also always lived in a lively Mexican-American neighborhood with tons of friends around us, which has provided me with tons of material for my novels. Gaby, Lost and Found is full of conversations and scenes inspired by my childhood.

ALLISON: You grew up in Kansas, but your roots are Mexican. What was it like for you the first time you got to visit Mexico?

ANGELA: The first time I visited Mexico was when I was a child. I think maybe I was eight or nine. My family was visiting family in El Paso and we went over the border to visit Juarez for a day. Border towns like Juarez certainly are not a good representation of the entire country of Mexico, but it was my first glimpse into Mexico and I loved it. I was a child, so I remember mostly things a child would naturally be drawn too: Maracas, piñatas, delicate Mexican blouses and skirts with embroidered flowers, tamarind candy with chili. Since then, I’ve always been drawn to Mexico and I’ve visited different parts of the country many times and lived in Guadalajara for two years. I try to get there once a year, but that doesn’t always happen.

ALLISON: You co-founded a Chicano poetry group, which later became a Latino Writers Collective. What interested you about starting this group? How easy or difficult was it?

ANGELA: I was working with youth that were considered “at risk” and many of the young Latina girls loved to write poetry as a way to express their dreams and talk back to a society that they felt devalued and stereotyped them. I gathered them to meet each other and we started having writing workshops that eventually led to readings at libraries and cultural festivals around the city. The first time we had a public reading, the girls were nervous and couldn’t decide who would read first. None of them wanted to read first. One of the girls, sort of angrily (under stress no doubt), said to me “why do we have to read? And you don’t?” I decided I had to read in order to show them they could do it too. Lead by example, right? Up till then I was their mentor and that evening I became a member alongside them. It was that way for many years. We changed our name from Las Poetas to Latino Writers Collective because guys wanted to join and we needed a more inclusive name. The most difficult part of the Latino Writers Collective for me was that my role was becoming more and more administrative. That work left me very little time for my own writing. Now, I focus on my writing.

ALLISON: The idea for Gaby Lost and Found came from seeing a little girl walking her black and white cat. How did you develop that idea into a middle-grade novel?

ANGELA: I didn’t know Gaby, Lost and Found would be a middle grade novel, I simply started with a voice of that girl I saw walking her cat. She looked about ten or eleven and I started with that voice. I’ve learned that once the voice asserts itself into the story, there’s nothing you can do about it. I had to let her tell her story and that’s what happened.

ALLISON: What kind of research went into the immigration aspect of Gaby Lost and Found? What about the animal shelter aspect?

ANGELA: For both aspects I Googled lots of articles about actual children who have been separated from their families and spoke to friends who had similar stories. For the animal shelter, I visited several animal shelters just to get inspiration for the different rescue dogs and cats featured in the novel and talked to staff about shelter volunteers and what they do. I pet a lot of cats and kissed a lot of dogs for this novel. It’s the sort of research I don’t mind.

ALLISON: Gaby Lost and Found is your first novel. What have you learned from writing about the revision process?

ANGELA: Revision is my fave part of the writing process. Again, it goes back to knowing that I have to cut and tighten sections. For me, the actual writing part is tougher because it’s full of self-doubt and uncertainty. With revision, beautiful magic happens that makes the book and its characters stronger. 🙂

ALLISON: You indicated in one interview that one of the motivations to keep going was that your husband promised you a dog if your book got published. How has life changed with having a dog around?

ANGELA: I don’t have my dog yet. I know, it’s such a bummer. I worked so hard on Gaby, Lost and Found to get my dog, but since my book came out last August (wow! It’s almost a year!), I’ve been traveling too much and that’s not good for a new dog. I don’t want my dog to be stuck away at a kennel all the time because I’m traveling. Also, my husband and I moved to a new home and I don’t have a fenced-in backyard yet. I want a fence first so that our dog can run around freely in its forever home. I cannot wait and have already obtained two fence quotes. Yay! I’ll keep you posted when it happens. I have a feeling all of my Facebook and twitter posts will be dominated by photos of our new furry family member. 🙂

ALLISON: The multicultural book review committee which I belong to feel concern about the lack of diverse books for young people. Beyond promoting multicultural books, is there anything that the committee can be doing to help bring about change?

ANGELA: I think awareness is good and from my own author’s perspective, the whole conversation about the need for diverse books is positive and exciting. Beyond promoting multicultural books, we need folks to buy our books or request them at libraries. Taking this action, sends a message to the publishing houses and booksellers that diverse books written by multicultural authors telling their stories are important. It’s crazy that it’s 2014 and we still have to make a case for this, but we do. 🙂

ALLISON: What’s next?

ANGELA: I’m super excited about my summer plans. Besides finishing up my second novel with Scholastic, I’ll be presenting a writing workshop at the Young Heroes camp at a local animal shelter, Great Plains SPCA, in Kansas for much of July and August. I’ll guide the campers in writing animal profiles for real dogs and cats that are at the SPCA shelter needing a forever home. It’s like Gaby, Lost and Found come to life. It’s going to be a blast. 🙂

ALLISON: Congratulations on your recently winning the International Latino Book Award for Best Youth Chapter Book!

Saturday Snapshot invites bloggers to share photos. Two weekends ago, my husband and I took our two dogs to the local Tails and Trails event, which is hosted every May by the Capital Humane Society. After we first arrived, we walked around a couple of times to take in all the people with dogs, the pet venues, and the food options. Eventually I mustered up my nerve to start saying hello to folks and to ask permission to take pictures. Can you tell my favorite sights were the dogs? 🙂


The bigger ones…



And the smaller ones….



The younger dogs…


And the older ones, like this fifteen-year-old Sheba.


There was even an invisible dog!


We collected dog treats from vendors.


Also, this lady with her adorable dog convinced me to try a vegetarian meal.


My husband took time to help demo agility.


After which, we needed some doughnuts. All proceeds went to support animal rescue.


Speaking of which, we bought coasters and other merchandise to support the causes.

I also met up with a writing friend who had just adopted a dog from a local foster dog group.


Last I heard, these pit bulls were still looking for homes.


There are also plenty other dogs who could use a home. Check out your local rescue. 🙂 Support no-kill shelters!

Cute! Fun! Sweet! Inspiring! All these adjectives describe Gaby, Lost and Found, by Angela Cervantes, about a girl who wants to rescue animals but soon finds herself in need of a permanent home. Gaby, her friends, and even the adult guardians in her life make for a realistic and endearing cast. Through the suspenseful plot, readers will learn about shelters and immigration, besides being entertained.

What struck me foremost is how true-to-life but also sympathetic the characters are. Gaby loves animals. She’ll do anything to rescue them. But she still feels a little upset when a cat in a tree ends up ruining her sweater. Her best friend Alma is a true-blue friend who will help Gaby get her wish for their class project to be helping out an animal shelter–although she is more than a little disgusted by the amount of poop involved. Local neighborhood boys Marcos and Enrique waste no time in tormenting the girls with the fact that shelters often kill the weakest animals. Yet Marcos comes to check on Gaby when she gets into a fight with Alma.

This is an exciting story. What I most appreciated, though, is that Cervantes skillfully blended two subplots into one, making also for a complex story. This isn’t just about a girl who wants to get her own pet, help out at the shelter, rescue a cat from apathetic owners, or keep her position after she sneaks home one of the animals. Nor is this just about whether or not Gaby’s dad will find a permanent job, her mom will return to the United States, and Gaby will herself get rescued from her predicament of being without a family. This is the story of a girl who loves to care for animals in need but is also in need herself. I also admire that while Cervantes manages to instill hope, she recognizes that huge obstacles prevent either situation from having an easy solution. Readers can see their own plights in Gaby’s, and can find plausible answers by following Gaby’s example.

There’s another reason for adults to like the plot too. It’s educational! Students will learn about both immigration and animal rescue. Gaby’s mom is originally from Honduras. While working a shift at her job, Gaby’s mom is rounded up for being an illegal worker and deported. Now she’s trying to find a way back into the country to raise her daughter, but is also struggling to earn money to pay the “coyotes” who will help her illegally cross the border. In most chapters, Gabby and her mother talk on the phone about their hopes of soon being reunited. It’s a heartbreaking story. Adults might want to talk with young readers about the reasons why sometimes families enter the United States illegally.

Turning to the animal shelter plot, Gaby’s story never feels like a platform for the issue, but it definitely does serve as an effective cry for volunteers. All the dogs and cats which Gaby helps care for are in need of socialization, so that people will want to adopt them. When Gaby begins making posters, she learns that she will need the support of local businesses if she wishes to advertise on their bulletin boards. Teachers might use the posters as models to encourage social action on the part of their own students. However, while Cervantes does address the neglect that can happen to some animals, she doesn’t talk about the ugly world of puppy mills. She also creates a strangely unrealistic situation of a couple who who threaten to sue the shelter for the return of their cat even though they obviously have no attachment to the cat.

Minor flaws aside, Gaby Lost and Found is a great introduction to middle-school readers about the complexities of immigration and animal rescue.  Moreover, it inspired me as an adult to find ways to become more personally involved in animal rescue. For these reasons, I think it’s a heart-warming tale for all ages.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

A girl and her cat. This is the inspiration behind debut novel, Gaby, Lost and Found, by Angela Cervantes. I’ll review it tomorrow. Save the date: February 22!

Angela, age 10, with her brother, and their  puppies. The dogs were the inspiration behind the character of Spike in Gaby, Lost and Found.

Angela, age 10, with her brother, and their puppies. The dogs were the inspiration behind the character of Spike in Gaby, Lost and Found.

Most of Cervantes’ childhood was spent in Kansas, living in the Mexican-American community of Oakland. Her family also spent a lot of time in El Dorado and Wichita visiting abuelos, and a slew of aunts, uncles, and cousins on weekends.

As the story goes with many authors, from her website, you’ll discover Cervantes showed early signs of being a writer. She liked spending time alone, reading, watching clouds, and hoarding paper and pens for writing time. One of her much-loved reading pleasures as a child were the Chronicles of Narnia, which not only did Cervantes read multiple times but she also wrote her own sequel to it. In high school, Cervantes discovered poetry and absorbed anything by Sylvia Plath and by Langston Hughes. About that time, she also began to read Kurt Vonnegut, who remains one of her all-time favorite authors.

Although Cervantes thought she would never finish her university program, due to struggles with algebra, she graduated with the help of a math tutor from Pakistan. Armed with a degree in English, Cervantes moved to Mexico, where she taught at a private school. Showing more signs of being a writer, she also wrote a notebook full of short stories. Unfortunately, she lost it on a trip home.

In 2003, Cervantes returned to Kansas, where she completed another degree, co-founded a Chicana poetry group, published two chapbook with the group, and began working at an international children’s organization. Five years later, she won third place for Creative Nonfiction in the Missouri Review’s audio competition and Kansas City Voices’ Best of Prose Award. In 2008, she was also recognized as one of Kansas City’s Emerging Writers by the Kansas City Star Magazine.

Today, Cervantes tries to be disciplined as a writer, but says she finds herself easily distracted by the clouds outside her window and cat videos on YouTube. Despite this, her writing process for Gaby Lost and Found was this: come home from work, write for three hours on a daily basis, and then write for seven to eight hours on the weekend. The first draft took nine months. According to The Debutante Ball, there were many times Cervantes doubted she could finish, but her husband promised her that they could get a dog if her book got published.

When not writing, Cervantes likes to read. If not reading or writing, she likes to run. It clears her mind and makes up for the long periods of time she sits to write. Gaby, Lost and Found was released in August of 2013. Cervantes is currently working on a second middle-grade novel.

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