Ryan, Pam Muñoz (2000). Esperanza rising. New York: Scholastic Press.
Plot Description: Esperanza is a wealthy young girl whose family owns El Rancho de las Rosas in Mexico. All her life she has been waited on by servants and given everything she could desire. Then one day her life changes forever. Her beloved Papa is killed and his evil brothers threaten Esperanza and Mama if they do not do as they are told. So they flee to America under the cover of darkness with their former servants. In America their lives are vastly different. Mama and Esperanza live in a farm labor camp and must learn to work for a living, and work hard. At first Esperanza is left to take care of the babies while the others work, something which is very difficult for her, since she has never had to take care of herself before, let alone others. Then when Mama is taken ill, Esperanza must find the strength to work and be El Patron of her family. Set against the backdrop of Great Depression Era California and workers strikes, this is a story of family, community and hope.
Quantitative Reading Level : Lexile Measure: 750L, ATOS Book Level: 5.3, Interest Level: Middle Grades (4-8), AR Points: 6
Qualitative Reading Analysis: The organization of the text is clear and chronological. The conventionality of the text is fairly complex in that it employs many examples of figurative language such as similes, metaphors, and personification throughout the story to paint a vivid picture of the scenery and Esperanza’s experiences. The vocabulary is mostly familiar and conversational, including dialogue. It also has Spanish words mixed into the English narrative, but they are always in italic font, so they are easy to recognize and the English equivalent always follows. Sentences are simple, complex and compound phrases. Themes are clear, but conveyed with some subtlety. The experiences are not common to most readers, though some students will have immigrated from other countries, so be able to relate to some experiences of being new to a country and a few may know what it is like to completely start over. There are some references to historical and cultural events, such as the Mexican Revolution and the Great Depression, but everything that is essential for understanding the story is explained.
Content Area: English, Literature, History
Content Area Standard: History–Social Science Content Standards for California Public Schools
California: A Changing State-4.4 Students explain how California became an agricultural and industrial power, tracing the transformation of the California economy and its political and cultural development since the 1850s.
- Describe rapid American immigration, internal migration, settlement, and the growth of towns and cities (e.g., Los Angeles).
- Discuss the effects of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and World War II on California.
English Language Arts Standards for Reading: Literature
Key Ideas and Details: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.2 Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.
English Language Arts Standards: Writing
Text Types and Purposes: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
Research to Build and Present Knowledge: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.7 Conduct short research projects that use several sources to build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.
Curriculum Suggestions: Have students research the Mexican Revolution and the Great Depression (in particular finding out about the farm workers in California and forced repatriation). Have students write a letter to Abuelita explaining what life is like in America. Analyze how Esperanza changes over the course of the novel and what brings about those changes. Have students record examples of figurative language throughout the story. Chart the ‘mountains and valleys’ of Esperanza as the story unfolds.
Supporting Digital Content:
Awards: YALSA Top Ten, Americas Award for Children’s Literature, Smithsonian’s Notable Book, NCTE Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts, Jane Addams Book Award/Honor Books, Pura Belpré Award/Honor Book, Jefferson Cup Award/Honor, Publishers Weekly Best Book, Judy Lopez Memorial Award: Children’s Literature
Character names/descriptions: Esperanza is a young girl who loses her life of comfort in Mexico and must begin again in America. Mama is her mother who tries to be strong in her new role as head of the family, but finds it increasingly difficult. Miguel, their former servant whose family helps Esperanza and Mama escape to the US. Abuelita, Esperanza’s grandmother who stays behind in Mexico. Marta, an outspoken field worker who wants better wages for workers and helps organizes a strike.
High interest annotation: After terrible tragedy takes her father and her home, Esperanza must listen to her Grandmother’s words and rise like a phoenix from the ashes of her privileged former life to start again.