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Esperanza Rising (Scholastic Gold) Paperback – September 27, 2016
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Pura Belpré Award Winner
Américas Award Honor Book
Jane Addams Children's Book Award Winner
Willa Cather Award Winner
Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist
ILA Notable Book for a Global Society
ALA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults
New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
* "Told in a lyrical, fairy tale-like style . . . Readers will be swept up." --Publishers Weekly, starred review
* "This well-written novel belongs in all collections." -- School Library Journal, starred review
"Ryan writes a moving story in clear, poetic language that children will sink into, and the book offers excellent opportunities for discussion and curriculum support." -- Booklist
"Ryan's... style is engaging, her characters appealing, and her story is one that-though a deep-rooted part of the history of California, the Depression, and thus the nation-is little heard in children's fiction. It bears telling to a wider audience." -- Kirkus Reviews
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The main character and narrator, Esperanza, is the spoiled daughter of a rich ranchowner in Mexico. The family’s situation changes when Esperanza’s father dies; and her mother Ramona, rather than marrying a man she does not want, decides to flee with her daughter to the United States. This is during the time of the Great Depression, and they end up in a poor Mexican labour camp in California. Esperanza has a hard time adjusting to the hardships of their new life – very different from what she’s been used to so far. But gradually, she learns to cope with the challenges. The story is based on / inspired by the life of the author’s own grandmother, also called Esperanza (Spanish for “hope”). The author has also cleverly incorporated the rhythm of the various harvest seasons into the story. I really liked the book, and I think it gives “food for thought” for our own time as well, concerning how we treat the present migration situation (not only in the US but the rest of the world as well).
Everything has changed for Esperanza once she arrives to America. She no longer has servants, wealth or her grandma to keep her comfort. She must rise above all these changes in order to survive. She has to learn how to work and provide for her family, while still grieving her father’s death. When her mother becomes sick from a dust storm and gets worse due to depression, Esperanza has to work even harder. She goes from not knowing how to sweep to being a productive worker like everyone else. Esperanza proves herself to the others when she works without complaining and attempts to save her earning to bring her grandmother to California with them. While this is all happening other works are trying to form a workers union and strike so they can earn higher wages and better living conditions. This adds some drama and conflict while also giving an insight into the workers lives.
Esperanza does not only learn how to be a great worker but also realizes she can be happy without having silk dresses or servants. She really progresses with having a better attitude in working hard and staying strong through trials. She is able to see other’s perspectives and can have empathy for them. Although at times I would become frustrated because she would act selfish or like a spoiled brat. It was hard to read through at times because I desired for her to reach the point that she grew up and realized she can’t have her old life back.
This books also touches on more important issues such as the Dust Bowl, Mexican Deportation Act, and the discrimination foreigners receive. It also shows the perspective of immigrant workers and how they struggle to even just put food on the table. I really enjoyed this book because Esperanza really does grow up and learn how to be responsible.
It also would be great to incorporate into a classroom. I would think either a first or second year of Spanish would be an appropriate level for this book. It would be an easy book to introduce some Spanish vocabulary and talk about the culture of Mexico. I would break this book up by chapters and have them students write down the Spanish words as they read the book and make any notes about the Mexican culture or immigration. I would also want to talk about the historical events that took place during the time this story is taking place. I could co-plan with the history teacher to see if while they learn about the Great Depression in history they could read a real example in my class.