03 January 2010

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

Many of us have read and enjoyed "rags to riches" stories.  These are those tales where characters have it pretty tough to begin with, but end up with the wealth they deserve.  It could be a story like "Cinderella," who starts as a maid and ends up a princess, or it could be like "Spiderman,"  who begins as a teenager frequently picked on and ends up a superhero.  Esperanza, from Munoz' Esperanza Rising, is unlikely to be found in any such story, though.  Instead, she begins by living a rich and privileged life on her families plantation and vineyard in Mexico and, through unfortunate circumstances, ends up living in a compound for Migrant workers in California on the cusp of the Great Depression.  

Now wait a minute before you write this book off.  I know that at this point you may be thinking, "Why would I want to read such a sad story?"  This is why:  Esperanza learns that fortune, riches, and beauty cannot be counted as you hold them in your hand or reside in the land beneath your feet.  Fortunes, riches, and beauty must travel with you and in you.

In addition to having a back-wards fairy tale like story, there is also a good dose of action as Esperanza uses the lessons she has learned to save the lives of her family members and friends.

Though at times you want to feel sorry for Esperanza, I certainly think that she will leave you smiling in the end.

(c) 2000    Published by: Scholastic    Number of Pages: 262    Awards: Pura Belpre Award

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