Book Review: Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

Book: Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

Published September 2002 by Scholastic, Inc|304 pages

Where I Got It: I own the paperback

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fiction

Esperanza thought she’d always live with her family on their ranch in Mexico–she’d always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home, and servants. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When their new life is threatened, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances–Mama’s life, and her own, depend on it.

I liked Esperanza Rising!  I thought it was a really good read, and it really shows what it was like to move to the U.S. during the Great Depression and what it was like to be a farm worker.

Esperanza had a lot of things change once her father dies.  She goes from having everything given to her and having a really good- and sheltered- life to having to work on a farm.  And she had to do it at such a young age, which is hard to imagine.  Considering the book takes place during the Great Depression, I suppose it’s not surprising, but still.  I can’t imagine doing what she and her family had to do, but they were willing to do whatever it took to have a better life.

One interesting thing that we see in the book is the fact that some people were deported back to Mexico, even though they were U.S. citizens, simply because they looked Mexican.  Sadly, that doesn’t seem to have changed much, and this story takes place 80-ish years later.  I do wish we saw a little more of that, actually, but it is something that we see in the book.  I can’t imagine having that hanging over your head.  There’s a lot of challenges that migrant workers face, and I thought the book showed that really well.

We do see a lot of the characters change, especially Esperanza.  She changes the most, of course, and she does what she needs to.  She’s grieving over the loss of her father, and her life changes pretty dramatically, but I wanted something a little more.  What, I don’t know, but it felt like there was this spark missing.  But maybe that’s just me.  I did like the relationship she had with her parents and her grandmother.  I was really close to my grandma, and I’ve always enjoyed seeing that in books.  Plus, she crochets with her grandma, and as someone who crochets, (unfortunately, by the time I actually learned how to crochet, my grandma wasn’t able to teach me anymore) I love seeing that in books.

3 stars.  I liked Esperanza Rising, but I think I wanted something a little more.  Maybe I was expecting too much, since this is a middle grade book, but I’d still recommend it.

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