Guapo’s Giant Heart is the lovable story of a calf who is adopted into a pet-farm family by caretaker, Lynn Jamerson of Mecca. The true tale illustrates Guapo’s journey as he grows from a cute little calf into an extraordinarily large bovine.

Written by Janet Zappala and Wendy Perkins and illustrated by Lara Calleja, the story focuses on the bonds Guapo creates with his new found family including Barney the donkey, Bambi the goat and Mabel the pot-belly pig. We learn of the fun times they have together as their friendships grow. But unfortunately, so does Guapo until he no longer fits in his shelter at Lynn’s family farm.  

Guapo has to leave his friends and go to a sanctuary where his immense size intimidates the other animals (and some people, too). Cows weigh an average 1,600 pounds. In actuality, Guapo has grown to nearly 3,000 pounds and well over six feet in height!

At the sanctuary, Guapo misses his old friends and attempts to make new ones with little success. The solution to his loneliness comes from his old friend Lynn, who brings Guapo’s former pal Mabel to join him. Once the other animals see Guapo being so gentle with little Mabel, they start to warm up and realize his giant heart is even bigger than his immense size.

Calleja’s illustrations are upbeat and very well coordinated with the storyline. Adults can use this book to assist children experiencing issues with friends, who need help socializing or may have difficulties with changes in their environment. Children may have questions about what happened to the other two calves that are in the barn with Guapo at the beginning of the story. The good news is they were both rescued as well.

“You can’t judge a book by its cover because you never know what’s on the inside,” says Zappala, who hopes the important message resonates with parents and kids at this time. “Guapo’s story demonstrates the importance of empathy, kindness, and seeing the beauty in everyone, especially those who may look at little different.”

Zappala, a celebrity health advocate and former Desert Health columnist, is a volunteer and advisor for Coachella Valley Horse Rescue which is how she met Guapo and became one of his many new friends.

Guapo still lives in the Coachella Valley and the non-profit Guapo and Friends Fund for Rescued Animals is being set up in his honor. Local children can meet him by texting or calling Lynn Jamerson at (760) 399.7094. Guapo’s Giant Heart will be officially released in February and available wherever books are sold including Amazon and www.mascotbooks.com. 

Desert Health Editor and Event Manager Doris Steadman is a retired elementary school counselor with two master’s degrees in early childhood development. She was also the manager of the children’s book department at Barnes & Noble in Palm Desert and can be reached at dsteadman.doris@gmail.com.

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