Esperanza Rising
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51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2010
He who falls today may rise tomorrow.
(Mexican Proverb, quoted from the book's opening)

This powerful and realistic novel is set in 1930's. The main character,Esperanza, is a wealthy young Mexican girl that has grown up on a ranch called El Rancho de las Rosas near Aguascalientes, Mexico. She is used to the care-free life of riches and privileges, surrounded by her loving parents, Ramona and Sixto Ortega, parties, dolls, servants, and silk dresses. But everything changes when one night, a day before Esperanza's 13th Birthday, her father is killed by the bandits.

Esperanza, her mother, and Abuelita (grandmother) find themselves in a very precarious position - they cannot own the ranch without Papa, a man, a head of the family. Espiranza's evil uncles take over the land, and one of them suggests that Ramona should get married to him. When Esperanza's mother refuses the proposal, their mansion gets set on fire at night, leaving them with nothing at all. Esperanza and her mother had no choice but to leave Mexico and flee to a migrate camp of agricultural work in California, leaving behind Abuelita and their riches and privileges. Instead, experiences of loss, poverty, separation, prejudice, humiliation and fear surround Esperanza on the way to her new life. She is no longer a princess but a worker. What's even more, her mother gets very sick, and Esperanza has to work hard to pay the hospital bills. Will she manage the long hours of work and months of separation from her mother and Abuelita? Will she find a way to rise from ashes and make a new life for herself?

Set against the multi-ethnic, labor-organizing era of the Depression, the story of Esperanza remaking herself is deeply touching and emotional. Most of all, It's a story about hope and perseverance (esperanza means "hope" in Spanish). The author also touches upon the the Dust Bowl, social reform, Mexican Deportation Act, discrimination and prejudice to foreigners.

Inspired by the experiences of author's own Mexican grandmother, this compelling story of immigration and assimilation is written in deeply authentic voice. The descriptive writing paints a well detailed picture for the reader. Spanish words, culture and traditions are woven in throughout the story, making it even easier to root for Esperanza.

If you liked this book, you might also like: "Ashes of Roses" by Mary Jane Auch, "Drown" by Junot Diaz, "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides, "From Ellis Island to JFK" by Nancy Foner, "The Namesake" by Jhumpa Lahiri, "Imagining America: Stories from the Promised Land" by Amy Ling, "And the Earth Did Not Devour Him" by Tomas Rivera and Evangelina Vigil-Pinon (translator), "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck, "Bread Givers" by Anzia Yezierska, "Rain of Gold" by Villasenor.

Julia Shpak
Author of "Power of Plentiful Wisdom". Available on Amazon.
For more reviews on children's books visit my blog "Julia's Library" at: ForwardQuoteDOTcom
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 2006
I think esperanza rising is a great book.It teaches you how to stay calm in times of depression.I also think that people should read this book because it has a wonderful script and teaches you to be kind to others who are mean to you.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2007
Esperanza Rising first takes place in Rancho de la Rosas in Mexico. The main character, Esperanza, is treated like a princess on the ranch. Everything is going well, until the night before Esperanza's father doesn't return home. Learning that her father was killed by bandits, Esperanza and her mother escape on a train that will take them to the United States of America. They find work on a farm in California with other Mexicans.

Wishing she were back home, Esperanza struggles to adapt to her new life. This is a big conflict that takes place in the story between Esperanza and herself. Not wanting to let go of her past and move ahead with her future, she doesn't try to fit in. After Esperanza's mother is put in the hospital, Esperanza finally works hard and tries to make friends. The story ends with Esperanza's mother coming home from the hospital and her knowing that everything will be alright.

This book was very entertaining to read. The author held my attention throughout the book because of all of the dramatic events that unfold. An example of this is when Esperanza's father dies. There is so much suspense in that chapter that I couldn't put the book down! When I read this book, I really felt as though I was right there beside Esperanza.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2008
FYI: This book, *Esperanza Rising: Esperanza RENACE*, is in SPANISH! For the ENGLISH version be sure to order simply *Esperanza RISING*.

Esperanza Rising is a wonderful coming-of-age novel set in the Great Depression, first in Mexico, then in Southern California. Esperanza is a young Mexican girl from a well-to-family, accustomed to being spoiled and always getting her way. When the family is forced to split up and flee the country for the States, will Esperanza have what it takes to help her family cross the border illegally, farm in the hot California sun and take care of the young children? You must read to find out!
P.S. This novel is great for teaching grade school students about the Depression and immigration.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2002
Esperanza Rising is the story of a girl of the same name, who has to change her entire life. But, this book is really about overcoming personal difficulties, enduring hard times, and surviving no matter what.
The story is something I can relate to because it is like my life. If you are not familiar with Hispanic culture you may not be interested in this book, though the attitudes and some spoken Spanish, like the birthday song, might intrigue you. Although Ryan didn't do a particularly good job of conveying the Hispanic culture, her writing and storytelling will make the reader want to continue reading.
Esperanza, her mother, and grandmother live together. Family circumstances cause Esparanza's family to move to America where her
mother has to work in the fields of California as a laborer. Because Esperanza is used to wealth, she is very unhappy being poor in America. How she overcomes her poverty is the story.
The character Esperanza is based on Esperanza Ortega, Ryan's grandmother, her real life experience living on a hacienda in Mexico and later coming to America. Through Esperanza, Ryan shows how her own family made it through a tough time and survived - showing if you work hard enough and are not afraid to start again, you can resolve any problem big or small. Is it a coincidence that in Spanish, "esperanza" means "hope"?
If you choose not to read this book you are missing an opportunity. It will mean a lot to you and maybe teach you something. Take my word. You have to read this book.
Pam Munoz Ryan also wrote Riding Freedom, her most famous book to date, which won the Willa Literary Award, the I.R.A. Teacher's Choice Award, Parenting Magazine's Reading Magic Award, the 1999-2000 California Young Reader Medal, was a 1999-2000 Texas Bluebonnet Award Finalist, and a Pan West Award Finalist.
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44 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2000
Pam Munoz Ryan's ancestors lived this story, and she has done a great service to write it with such an authentic voice. She has presented a fictionalized account of her own grandmother's fall from wealth and privilege in the aftermath of the revolution in Mexico as she immigrated to the United States to work in a Mexican farm labor camp during the Great Depression. Esperanza, the young protagonist, experiences loss, poverty, separation, prejudice, humiliation and fear on the road to her ultimate rise from the ashes in the manner of the mythical phoenix. Ryan does an excellent job of presenting the dilemma and danger of early attempts to improve the working conditions of the laborer during this period. She points out in the author's notes the grave injustices incurred by the Mexican Deportation Act, which exceeded relocations of the Japanese-Americans during the 2nd World War and of the Native Americans of the previous century. Many of these issues of prejudice and injustice persist today. Adults who enjoy this wonderful children's book should be sure to read "Rain of Gold," by Villasenor.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2001
First of all, I would like to say that to read this book would not be my first choice. In fact, a book called Esperanza Rising with a picture of a girl floating in the air is probably not any middle-schooler's first choice of a book. But, fortunatly, I have a really cool reading teacher that knows that you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover.
Esperanza Rising is a story about an 12-year-old girl who lives in Mexico. She is fairly rich, and she lives on a big ranch with her parents.
Then, her perfect life falls apart. Her father dies, her powerful uncle threatens her, and her house is burned down. Esperanza is forced to flee to the United States with her mother in poverty to work in a labor camp. It is the very life she has never known.
This book tells Esperanza's story (A true one!) and how she must adjust to her new life. It is no wonder that in Spanish, Esperanza means, "Hope".
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27 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Winner of the 2001 Pura Belpre Award, "Esperanza Rising" tracts the rising/falling fortunes of young Esperanza Ortega. Forced to flee her father's grand estate in Mexico with her mother, the two make a perilous journey to America and become migrant farm workers in California. The book is a modified, "Little Princess", with a far more realistic and satisfying ending. Characters are presented here with great delicacy. Esperanza herself must sort out her own previous prejudices, while learning to live as, in her mind, a peasant. Children reading this will fully grasp everything that Esperanza has lost while truly appreciating the Mexican proverb Ryan has placed at the book's beginning: "The rich person is richer when he becomes poor, than the poor person when he becomes rich".
Though I appreciate much of what the book says, I had my own personal problems with the presentation. The strikers are presented as alternately foolhardy and violent. They are lead by a girl, Marta, who is introduced by teasing Esperanza for being once so rich, now so low. These strikers are never joined by any of the main characters in this book, save Marta. In the Author's Note, Ryan explains that strikers fought for better living conditions and were sometimes shipped back to Mexico without any justification on the officials' part. In some cases the strikers lost. "In other instances, the strong voices of many people changed some of the pitiful conditions". Yet we do not see any evidence of this in the book. Instead, the reader is left with the very clear feeling that it is easier to be a scab like Esperanza's friend Miguel rather than risk everything for the good of others. I know it is not the author's intent to present this point of view, but this is unfortunately the lesson learned. After all, in a section where Esperanza fights with Miguel in a field about the hopelessness of their situation, Miguel argues that, "everything will work out". Esperanza reacts violently, saying that this way of thinking is not productive. The obvious conclusion being drawn is that Miguel should do something about his situation. Quoth Miguel, " `You are beginning to sound like the strikers, Esperanza', said Miguel coldly. `There is more than one way to get what you want in this country'." Maybe so, Miguel. But that particular way helped improve the lives of countless Latin American immigrants in America. It's just a pity Ryan fails to acknowledge this fact in her story.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 7, 2005
Pam Munoz Ryan writes a beautiful and compelling novel of a young girl who begins her teenage years in a way that she would have never expected. Esperanza Ortega is living the privileged lifestyle of a wealthy Mexican girl form a prominent family on Rancho de Las Rosas in Aguascalientes, Mexico, in the early 1930's. After tragedy strikes, Esperanza and her mother lose all of their riches and must flee to California, alone, without their beloved Abuelita (grandmother). With the help of their hired hands, who are more like family, Esperanza and her mother are forced to assume different roles, as agricultural laborers living well below poverty. More tragedy strikes as Esperanza's mother becomes extremely ill with Valley Fever. Esperanza must put all of her selfishness and past behind, in order to gain the strength and courage needed to take care of her mother and some how find a way to bring her Abuelita back to them. Esperanza is faced with the difficult challenges of the Great Depression, labor unions, and the prejudice against the Mexican people

Ryan writes a story that is rich with symbolism and has the ability to stimulate the senses of the reader. Ryan uses Spanish idioms, proverbs, songs, and chalks the text full with Spanish vocabulary, introducing the reader to the customs and culture of Esperanza's people. Ryan titles each chapter with names of fruits and vegetables, which one by one, give the reader a timeline of the harvest and a piece of the story. The story of Esperanza, her family, struggles, and triumphs are loosely based on the life of the author's grandmother. Esperanza Rising is a great read and proves to offer valuable and realistic information surrounding the times of the Great Depression and the struggle of agricultural laborers. Beyond the educational aspect, this well written novel definitely will captivate the interest of pleasure readers.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 2008
I would give this book, Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan, four stars. The author describes everything really realistic and fun, making you feel like you're watching TV. All the characters are realistic in their characteristics. Only the bad thing is the ending I think. I think the ending happened too suddenly. That's the only reason I took one star out. It's really a good book though.
Esperanza lives in a very large house in El Rancho de las Rosas in Mexico, until a very bad event happens. By that event, she loses her house and her land, but her mother and friends are all at her side. She and all her companions except Abuelita, her grandmother who hurt her leg, have to go to USA to work. Her mother gets sick there and Esperanza works even harder to get the money to heal her. Abuelita comes by Miguel, Esperanza's friend's help. Esperanza's mother gets well, too. At last, happy ending comes to her life, at USA, with her family.
I think people who are around my age, 12, will like this book. I think it might be too hard for smaller kids, and older people might be too old to read this book. It's best for kids around my age. Mostly girls might read this book, looking at the front page, but boys like it too.(I have seen them read).

by: Aeri Kong
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