I must have been eleven years old when I read this book and I was surprised to find I still own it. I remember getting it from the Scholastic book fair and wanting desperately to read it. It took me a while because I had to put it down in order to read others things in hopes to lighten the mood. The story of Esperanza’s life is mostly based on the events which occurred in Ryan’s grandmother’s childhood (also named Esperanza.)
Though the audience is initially children, or at least a younger crowd, the subject matter and events in Pam Muñoz Ryan’s book are deep. Nothing gruesome, but definitely sad. Esperanza Rising is simple, yet an eye opener to real life problems, past and present.
Believing her life would be forever wonderful, Esperanza thought she would always live on her family’s ranch in Mexico. After a tragedy strikes, Esperanza and her mother are forced to flee to California. There, they settle in a camp for Mexican workers. Unready for hard labor, Esperanza and her mom face financial struggles caused by the Great Depression and lack of acceptance in the place they now call home.
You might think I’d find a con, but I don’t have any. With the details of this novel being for children, I think it’s a great and tasteful way to inform them about real life events. The loss of a parent and sudden move to a place and lifestyle you have no connection is scary enough. Being treated poorly because of your race, language, and previous lifestyle is heartbreaking. Esperanza Rising made me aware of how one’s life can be flipped upside down at any moment over as little as greed. It taught me how hard it is to struggle to make even a little so one can survive. It taught me that even children are not untouched by fear or left alone by prejudice. Ryan wrote a book that makes me want to do and better for others and the world.
I believe a book like this is quite amazing and I can’t wait for when my kid(s) will read this so we can discuss its contents. May you take the opportunity to do the same.