franciscoAn imaginative 10-year-old fifth grader at Saddlebrook Preparatory Academy (located off S.R. 54 here in Wesley Chapel), Francisco Cobo is now a published author, with his children’s book available for purchase on and

Francisco didn’t speak a word of English when he arrived at Saddlebrook Prep from Mexico in August 2014. The school is home to about 100 students in grades 3 through 12 from all over the world who are participating in intense training in either golf or tennis, along with equally challenging academic studies. This school is located on the premises of Saddlebrook Resort Tampa.

Francisco spends two hours a day practicing golf, but says he loves writing just as much as the sport.

Deffs Adventures tells the tale of Deffs, a real-life hamster who is the class pet in Elaine Strausser’s classroom at the school. Deffs was named by Francisco and his classmates – the hamster’s name is an acronym that combines the four students’ first initials with an “S” for their teacher’s last name.

deffs coverFrancisco worked with Strausser over several weeks to write, re-write, edit and add details to his book. He illustrated every page of the story himself, too.

It began as an independent project in the classroom, but when it was complete, Chris Wester, the Prep School’s director of curriculum, suggested it was good enough to be shared in print form, so Strausser found a publishing company that Francisco and his family could work with to self-publish the book.

“It was fun to imagine,” says Francisco. “I wrote that Deffs hid in the candy bucket to go trick or treating with us and that he stayed at one of the kids’ houses over Christmas break.”

For Francisco’s Christmas break, he won’t return home to Mexico. Instead, his parents will come to visit him and his 12-year-old sister, Fernanda, who is a tennis player and seventh grader at Saddlebrook Prep.

“He’s very creative,” says Francisco’s guidance counselor, Sara Bassoumi, “It’s an outstanding achievement that he learned to speak English and published a book” in the short time he’s been at the school.

“I like that now everyone will get to see the story,” says Fernando, whose book also is now on one of the shelves at the school’s library. Saddlebrook Prep recently hosted a book signing, honoring the author in front of his school family, and allowing Fernando to share his story and his achievement with his classmates. For more info about Saddlebrook Prep, visit or call 907-4300.

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