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Rationale - Re-telling - Translation - Activities - Reflection

Country: Spain
Language: Spanish (also published in French)
Title: El guardián del olvido (The guardian of lost things)
Author: Gisbert J.M. & Ruano A.
Publisher: Ediciones SM (1990)
ISBN: 84 348 3144-9
Chosen by: Juan José Lage Fernandez
Professor of Education, Centro de Profesores, Pérez de la Sala 4, 33007 Oviedo, Spain.

Rationale for choosing the book:
This book was chosen because it perfectly combines one style from two points of view: the author and the illustrator, united to show the light and shade which often permeates Spanish works of art. The book creates an ambience of mystery and fantasy which begins on the first page and progresses to a final concluding crescendo of happiness.

Gabriel has lost his spinning top and is very upset about it. At school he makes friends with a rather strange girl, Analisa, who doesn't always attend classes or talk to any of the children. The same day that Gabriel loses his spinning top, Analisa talks to him. She knows why he is upset and where he can find his lost spinning top. So she takes him to a very old mansion inhabited by a rather strange yet elegant and powerful looking man - the Guardian of Lost Things. He takes the children into his large and inspiring house with many enormous rooms containing lost things. Gabriel is first shown into a room which appears to be solely of lost toys, and here he finds his spinning top.

As Gabriel leaves, the Guardian tells him that he should not return unless it is of great importance. When he's in the library, however, Gabriel remembers that his mother has lost an old pocket watch, so he decides to try to find it. The Guardian is not too happy about the next visit, but does show Gabriel into a room with many lost watches. Here he finds his mother's watch, much to her surprise and delight. Once in the library again, Gabriel finds a little mirror which he thinks belongs to Analisa. So he visits the Guardian once more, thinking that she might be there. Eventually he finds her in the room of lost mirrors, where he sees her face reflected over and over again. At first he thinks she is a prisoner of the Guardian, but finally discovers that Analisa, herself, was lost and was waiting for someone to find her.

Translation (Pages 7,9,10 & 11):
That day wasn't going to be the same as the others.
Like most mornings, Gabriel walked to school quickly. But today he had something very special in his bag: his Chinese spinning top. It was made of metal and was decorated in vivid colours. When it rotated, it played happy musical notes in the air. Gabriel had never seen anything to equal it. 'During the recreation, I will take it down to the playground,' he thought when he arrived at school.
Analisa suddenly appeared at a window. She was the most mysterious pupil in the school. She had arrived after the term had started and was often absent from classes. None of the children knew why. She didn't seem ill, but she was very strange. She hardly ever spoke and she nearly always carried a little mirror in her hand.

When Gabriel arrived at the classroom, his heart missed a beat. His spinning top wasn't in his bag! 'Have I lost it in the street?' he said to himself, miserably. 'How come I didn't notice that?'
He wanted to run off to find it, but he couldn't. The class was about to start and the teacher would not think that a lost toy was very important.
During the recreation, Gabriel was feeling very downcast when Analisa, unexpectedly, came up to him. 'Have you lost something?' she asked him.
The boy was very surprised. It was the first time that Analisa had spoken to him.
Also, she had guessed what had happened.
'How do you know?' he replied in embarrassment.
'It seemed like it. You have an air. What have you lost?'
'My Chinese spinning top, when I was on the way here.'
'Do you want to find it?' asked Analisa staring at him. 'Of course, but someone will have taken it.'
'It depends on who,' said the girl mysteriously. 'When school's finished, we'll go and look for it.'
'That won't do any good.
' 'We shall see,' she said, and turned round and walked away.

At mid-day, they set off. The girl said:
'Come on. We won't take the route to your house but another one.'
'Let's go.'
Gabriel began to walk after her, but was doubtful.

'Is she going to play a trick on me?'
They walked quickly, at the lively speed that she set, and soon they arrived in an isolated area. A little later, Analisa pointed to a house at the back of a lonely little square, and said:
'Ask there for your spinning top. Try and you will see.'

NB This is a working translation for educational purpose only.

Activities for use in school:
1. Discuss what it is like to lose something and
i) the joy of finding it OR
ii) the misery of knowing that it will not be found
Write to a friend/parents explaining how you feel OR
Dramatise this with a partner

2. Discuss the character of Gabriel in the story
i) Where he lives; the climate; the school; his general appearance etc
ii) His feeling of loss; his loneliness; what it's like to find a friend etc.
Continue the story of Gabriel and Analisa in the form of a story board OR
Make a storyboard about how you met one of your friends OR
Write a poem about a time when you felt very lonely.

3. Look at the illustrations on pages 24 and 34.
i) Can you find the references to Dali and Velázquez?
ii) Find out as much as you can about these two Spanish artists.
Make a small 'flyer' inviting friends/parents/teachers to an exhibition of these two artists OR
Try to paint in the style of one of these artists.

The warm browns and oranges of the illustrations in El guardián del olvido reflect the Spanish countryside and the climate of Spain. Which colours do you think might reflect your country?

NB Further literature and language-based activities can be found in
Picture Books sans Frontières
available from or

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ncrcl November 2004