Reviews for Esperanza Rising


The Book Report Reviews 2001 January-February
Esperanza Ortega has spent her first twelve years as the pampered, only child of a wealthy landowner in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Her comfortable life vanishes when her father is murdered and her uncles force Esperanza and her mother to flee. With the help of their former servants, they secretly leave Mexico and make their way to California to work in the fields. Esperanza is unprepared for the hardships she must endure in the camp. Her mother patiently explains that they are fortunate to have a place to stay and a way to earn a meager living. Some workers try to organize the laborers to strike for better living conditions and pay, but the glut of workers coming to California in 1935 dooms their efforts. When her mother becomes ill, Esperanza discovers an inner strength that enables her to perform tasks she has never done before. This story of resilience in the face of harsh adversity shows how Mexican farm laborers were discriminated against in the 1930s. Readers will sympathize with Esperanza as she sheds her patrician upbringing and adapts to circumstances to survive. The author explains in a note that her grandmother inspired this story. Instead of numbers, she uses the name of the crop that is ready for harvesting to identify each chapter. Recommended. By Charlotte Decker, Librarian, Children's Learning Center, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (Ohio) © 2001 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

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Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 December 2000
Gr. 5-8. Moving from a Mexican ranch to the company labor camps of California, Ryan's lyrical novel manages the contradictory: a story of migration and movement deeply rooted in the earth. When 14-year-old Esperanza's father is killed, she and her mother must emigrate to the U.S., where a family of former ranch workers has helped them find jobs in the agricultural labor camps. Coming from such privilege, Esperanza is ill prepared for the hard work and difficult conditions she now faces. She quickly learns household chores, though, and when her mother falls ill, she works packing produce until she makes enough money to bring her beloved abuelita to the U.S.. Set during the Great Depression, the story weaves cultural, economic, and political unrest into Esperanza's poignant tale of growing up: she witnesses strikes, government sweeps, and deep injustice while finding strength and love in her family and romance with a childhood friend. The symbolism is heavy-handed, as when Esperanza ominously pricks her finger on a rose thorne just before her father is killed. But Ryan writes movingly in clear, poetic language that children will sink into, and the books offers excellent opportunities for discussion and curriculum support. --Gillian Engberg Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2001 Spring
In this poignant look at the realities of immigration, thirteen-year-old Esperanza, daughter of an affluent Mexican rancher, is forced to trade fancy dolls and dresses for hard work and ill-fitting hand-me-downs after her beloved father dies. Laboring in the United States, picking grapes on someone else's land for pennies an hour, Esperanza is transformed into someone who can take care of herself and others. Copyright 2001 Horn Book Guide Reviews

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2001 #1
At times Esperanza Rising, although it takes place in Depression-era Mexico and the United States instead of Victorian England, seems a dead ringer for Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess. Both are dramatic riches-to-rags stories about girls forced to trade fancy dolls and dresses for hard work and ill-fitting hand-me-downs after their beloved fathers die. Thirteen-year-old Esperanza even possesses a touch of Sara Crewe's romantic spirit. The daughter of an affluent Mexican rancher, she had been taught by her father to believe that the "land is alive," that she could lie down beneath the arbors in her family's vineyards, press her ear to the ground, and hear a heart beat. Yet can this still hold true for Esperanza when she no longer reigns as queen of the harvest but labors in the fields of a foreign country, picking grapes on someone else's land for pennies an hour? The transition does not come easily for her, and thus her story ultimately diverges from The Little Princess's fairytale script to become a poignant look at the realities of immigration. Political as well as personal history inform the sometimes florid narrative (loosely based, we are told in an afterword, on the experiences of the author's grandmother). Esperanza's struggles begin amidst class unrest in post-revolutionary Mexico and intersect with labor strikes in the United States, which serve to illustrate the time period's prevailing hostility toward people of Mexican descent. In one of the more glaring injustices she witnesses, striking workers, who were born American citizens and have never set foot on Mexican soil, are loaded onto buses for deportation. Through it all, Esperanza is transformed from a sheltered aristocrat into someone who can take care of herself and others. Although her material wealth is not restored in the end, the way it is for Sara Crewe, she is rich in family, friends, and esperanza-the Spanish word for hope. Copyright 2001 Horn Book Magazine Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 2000 October #1
The author of Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride (1999) and Riding Freedom (1997) again approaches historical fiction, this time using her own grandmother as source material. In 1930, Esperanza lives a privileged life on a ranch in Aguascalientes, Mexico. But when her father dies, the post-Revolutionary culture and politics force her to leave with her mother for California. Now they are indebted to the family who previously worked for them, for securing them work on a farm in the San Joaquin valley. Esperanza balks at her new situation, but eventually becomes as accustomed to it as she was in her previous home, and comes to realize that she is still relatively privileged to be on a year-round farm with a strong community. She sees migrant workers forced from their jobs by families arriving from the Dust Bowl, and camps of strikers--many of them US citizens--deported in the "voluntary repatriation" that sent at least 450,000 Mexicans and Mexican-Americans back to Mexico in the early 1930s. Ryan's narrative has an epic tone, characters that develop little and predictably, and a romantic patina that often undercuts the harshness of her story. But her style is engaging, her characters appealing, and her story is one that--though a deep-rooted part of the history of California, the Depression, and thus the nation--is little heard in children's fiction. It bears telling to a wider audience. (author's note) (Fiction. 9-15) Copyright 2000 Kirkus Reviews

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2002 July #1
"With a hint of magical realism, this robust novel set in 1930 captures a Mexican girl's fall from riches and her immigration to California," said PW in our Best Books citation. Ages 8-12. (June) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2000 October
Gr 6-9-Ryan uses the experiences of her own Mexican grandmother as the basis for this compelling story of immigration and assimilation, not only to a new country but also into a different social class. Esperanza's expectation that her 13th birthday will be celebrated with all the material pleasures and folk elements of her previous years is shattered when her father is murdered by bandits. His powerful stepbrothers then hold her mother as a social and economic hostage, wanting to force her remarriage to one of them, and go so far as to burn down the family home. Esperanza's mother then decides to join the cook and gardener and their son as they move to the United States and work in California's agricultural industry. They embark on a new way of life, away from the uncles, and Esperanza unwillingly enters a world where she is no longer a princess but a worker. Set against the multiethnic, labor-organizing era of the Depression, the story of Esperanza remaking herself is satisfyingly complete, including dire illness and a difficult romance. Except for the evil uncles, all of the characters are rounded, their motives genuine, with class issues honestly portrayed. Easy to booktalk, useful in classroom discussions, and accessible as pleasure reading, this well-written novel belongs in all collections.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2000 December
After a fire destroys their home and belongings, Esperanza (Hope) and her mother must flee their native Mexico to the United States with the help of their housekeeper and her family. The formerly wealthy Ortega women are now "peasants" and must workto survive. Despite the difficulties of life at the camp, Esperanza learns to work, to care for others, and to give rather than take. When her mother becomes ill and is hospitalized, Esperanza is alone except for the companionship of her friend andformer servant, Miguel, and his family. After a year, on the eve of Esperanza's fourteenth birthday, her beloved grandmother arrives from Mexico, Mama is released from the hospital, and the little family is reunited. Now Esperanza is rising abovecircumstances, filled with dreams and possibilities. Numerous truths, lessons, Spanish terms, and symbols that include a crocheted blanket, rose cuttings, and a river are skillfully incorporated into the narrative. Fruits and vegetables serve as chapter titles, effectively contrasting the life ofwealth in Mexico and the working life in California. An author's note indicates that the story was inspired by events in the life of Ryan's grandmother. Details of existence at the migrant work camp, agricultural strikes and violence, discrimination,and the Mexican repatriation are realistic, based on historical facts in this readable, believable, and inspirational story.-Sherry York. Copyright 2000 Voya Reviews

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