SugarHouse Mama

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

This is another book that is part of our church book group. It's a children's book, but one that is great for all ages. The best part: it only took a day to read!

The basic premise: Young Esperanza, her mother, and grandmother are forced to leave their home when the father dies. Esperanza and her mother head to America to start a new life. The challenges they face as Mexican immigrants in the 1920's and the hardships of leaving a wealthy life behind make up the majority of the story. Esperanza doesn't stay spoiled and haughty for long. She learns that work and family, not wealth and privileges constitute true happiness.

It's a quick read, fast paced, and has a great moral. Ryan does a terrific job of making the characters identifiable and lovable right away. Ryan's writing style is consistent, smooth, and clear. It was a nice, refreshing book to spend an afternoon on.

The issues it raises are great for a family to discuss together - I highly recommend it, especially if you have young readers in the house. It provides an avenue to discuss work ethic, fair treatment of 'people' (the farm employees), race, discrimination, class distinction, and the Great Depression. It's one of those books that makes you wish you were a teacher so you could share it with students and *hopefully* keep them interested in reading!

I enjoyed the book so much I also read Becoming Naomi Leon; another quick read by Ryan. BNL is more of a rite of passage story. Again, the main character is a young girl who was raised with a difficult family life. Her mother suddenly appears and Naomi must choose what kind of life she will lead and who she will become; a tall order for a 5th grader.

For me, the best part of the writing was the chapter titles: a rabble of yesterdays, a lamentation of swans, a murmuration of tomorrows. I loved it. Anyway, both were great stories; both provide topics to discuss with kids, and both are entertaining and captivating.

Overall, I'm very glad these books were recommended to our book group. I look forward to discussing them with all the girls in a few weeks.

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