Gaby Ramirez Howard faces the same ups and downs as any 11-year-old girl, but they are made more complicated by her mother’s absence.
Three months ago, the factory where Gaby’s mother worked was raided, and she was deported to Honduras, a country Gaby has never seen. Though she lives with her dad, Gaby basically parents herself with the help of her friend Alma’s family. Her physical and emotional needs are barely met at home. Gaby’s world brightens when her class begins a long-term volunteer project at the Furry Friends animal shelter. Like her mom, Gaby is an animal lover, and she develops her writing talent by crafting adoption profiles for the cats and dogs. Although bullies torment her with taunts of “illegal” and “alien,” caring adults in the community and strong friendships empower the resilient Gaby to find her voice. Readers from many backgrounds will empathize with Gaby’s struggle to do what is right for the animals she has come to love at Furry Friends, as well as with her suffering, as she wonders if and when her mother will make the journey back to the United States. Cervantes’ debut novel presents young readers with an age-appropriate glimpse of what happens when immigration status separates families.
A timely, touching and nuanced portrayal of real-life challenges experienced by children in mixed-status families. (Fiction. 8-12)