The Book Reviews – Website

September 30, 2008

Esperanza Rising

Esperanza Rising

Author: Pam Munoz Ryan

Page Length: 262

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Realistic Fiction   

PLOT SUMMARY: As the story begins, Esperanza is living with her parents on their large ranch in Mexico.  Esperanza is six years old and loves spending time with her father who teaches her how to “feel” the land.  The story quickly moves to six years later with Esperanza waiting for her father to return from the day’s work on the ranch.  Esperanza is anticipating his arrival because it is the end of harvest and the next day is her birthday.  There will be a grand party celebrating both.

However, her father does not return and Alfonso, the boss of the field workers, brings the news to Esperanza, her mother, and grandmother that her father has been ambushed and killed.  Many people come to mourn his death and give the family their sympathy.  Esperanza’s two uncles come every day to “sort” through her father’s paperwork.  They bring the news to Esperanza’s mother that the ranch belongs to them and that she can remain on the ranch only if she agrees to marry one of them.  Also, they plan to send Esperanza away to boarding school.

The only solution the mother and daughter have is to move to California with Alfonso, Hortensia, and Miguel to join others who have migrated to the United States to find work and a better life.  They plan to work in the fields helping with the various crops that are grown in California.  This offers a better life to Alfonso’s family, but not to Esperanza and her mother.  They are leaving a life of prominence, luxury and wealth to live with their former employees in dirt floor cabins.

Esperanza has a very hard time dealing with the loss of her father, separation from her grandmother and living in poverty.  All the people of the community know her story and she is ridiculed by some of the other girls.  After her mother becomes ill, Esperanza realizes it is her responsibility to work and make money for the family.  She becomes one of the better field workers and saves her money so that she will be able to bring her grandmother from Mexico to California to join the family.

REVIEW: I enjoyed this book very much.  It is a story of “riches to rags” and how Esperanza overcomes the obstacles of living in a new country with a very different lifestyle.  The book is written in English, but several Spanish words are used, which would be good to use in vocabulary development. On pages 246-247, the writing is an excellent example of descriptive and summative writing.   I think this would be an excellent book to read as a class novel.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Setting, Characters, Spanish/English Vocabulary, Sequence of Events, Historical Context

RELATED BOOKS: Becoming Naomi Leon, The House on Mango Street, A Year Down Yonder, A Long Way from Chicago, Hitch

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Of Mice and Men” & “The Grapes of Wrath”


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

TrackBack URI

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: