Book Summary: Esperanza comes from a wealthy Mexican family. However, when her father is killed by bandits, her Tio Luis gains custody of their house and money and wants to marry Esperanza's mother. Esperanza and her mother, with the help of some servants, escape to the United States, but it's during the Great Depression. They struggle to survive in the area at this time, going through many difficulties and hardships along the way.
APA Reference: Ryan, P.M. (2000). Esperanza rising. New York: Scholastic, Inc.
Impressions: The book was a difficult read in that it was depressing to read so many hardships Esperanza had to suffer through. Even her trip to America is stressful and difficult, cramped in a tight space in fear of being caught. The book is written simply, however, and elegantly. There are also elements of Spanish sprinkled throughout, oftentimes with translations immediately following. This gives readers a subtle bilingual lesson while also reading a well-written riches-to-rags story.
Professional Review: --Ryan uses the experiences of her own Mexican grandmother as the basis for this compelling story of immigration and assimilation, not only to a new country but also into a different social class. expectation that her 13th birthday will be celebrated with all the material pleasures and folk elements of her previous years is shattered when her father is murdered by bandits. His powerful stepbrothers then hold her mother as a social and economic hostage, wanting to force her remarriage to one of them, and go so far as to burn down the family home. mother then decides to join the cook and gardener and their son as they move to the United States and work in California's agricultural industry. They embark on a new way of life, away from the uncles, and unwillingly enters a world where she is no longer a princess but a worker. Set against the multiethnic, labor-organizing era of the Depression, the story of remaking herself is satisfyingly complete, including dire illness and a difficult romance. Except for the evil uncles, all of the characters are rounded, their motives genuine, with class issues honestly portrayed. Easy to booktalk, useful in classroom discussions, and accessible as pleasure reading, this well-written novel belongs in all collections.
Goldsmith, F. (2000). Esperanza Rising (Book). [Review of the book Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan]. School Library Journal, 46(10), 171.
Library Uses: Tie into history lessons of the Great Depression from multiple perspectives, in this case the Mexican perspective.