Galápagos Girl

Illustrated by Angela Dominguez

Published by Lee & Low Books

Dedicated to Valentina Cruz Bedon, who taught me there, and Jean Gallagher who took me there.

Valentina was born on an island formed by fire, surrounded by blue-green sea.

As a Galápagueña, Valentina spends her days observing the natural world around her. She greets sea lions splashing on the shore, scampers over lava rocks with Sally-lightfoot crabs, and swims with manta rays. But Valentina also understands the fragility of this wondrous world, and she makes a solemn promise to protect the islands and her animal friends.

The Story Behind The Story

This book was inspired by the childhood of Valentina Cruz, whose family were some of the first permanent inhabitants of the Galápagos Islands.

In 2007, I had an adventure of a lifetime. My friend and long-time traveling buddy, Jean Gallagher, invited me to go to the Galápagos Islands with her. To visit the Galápagos had always been a dream of mine; I couldn’t say no. We sailed for two weeks on a beautiful boat with six other adventurers and our guides. One of our naturalist guides was Valentina Cruz Bedon. She shared with us the home on Floreana Island where she grew up with her parents and 11 brothers and sisters. They were poor, but very happy. They felt like they lived in paradise.

When I returned home, the animals, plants, and people of the Galápagos stayed with me. In 2009 I wrote Valentina telling her I wanted to write a picture book about her, weaving in information about the animals of the Galápagos. Thankfully, she was willing to share her story with me over many emails and a few video chats. We are so glad to see our book birthed into the world. We hope all who read it will want to keep the animals and environment of the Galápagos safe.

Awards and Honors

  • Green Prize for Sustainable Literature 2019
  • Campoy-Ada Spanish Language Award
  • Bank Street Best Books of the Year 2019
  • Junior Library Guild Selection

Horn Book

“This bilingual (English and Spanish) picture-book biography chronicles the early life of biologist Valentina Cruz. Born in 1971 on Floreana, a Galápagos Island, Cruz spent much of her childhood exploring the flora and fauna around her home – Galápagos penguins, sea lions, and the famous Galápagos tortoises. With its vibrant illustrations and engaging text, the volume shows that Cruz has kept her promise to her beloved Floreana all these years.”


“Arnold has penned a poetic love letter to the spectacular wildlife of the Galápagos, inspired by Valentina Cruz, a biologist and conservationist. From blue-footed boobies to tortoises and even penguins, the islands seem to have it all. Readers will enjoy this quiet story of a young girl who finds not only a love of nature, but a way to protect it and to share it with the world. The book will fascinate readers with Valentina’s magical island life; readers will wish for nothing more than to swim with manta rays themselves. A timely lesson of conservation that will get kids looking at the wildlife around them and saying, ‘We will not forget you. And we will keep you safe.'”

School Library Journal

“Dominguez’s playful pencil-on–illustration board artwork brings the child and the creatures in her world to life. The back matter includes an author’s note, more facts about the Galápagos Islands, information on each of the animals mentioned in the story, and a bibliography. VERDICT Readers are presented here with an unsung and worthy heroine.”