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Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
Did you know that in Spanish, Esperanza means hope? I guess it's kind of ironic, since hope is the moral of the story.
Esperanza Ortega, who lives on El Rancho de las Rosas in Aguascalientes, Mexico in the 1920s, thought that nothing could possibly go wrong in her life. She was surrounded by servants, beautiful dresses, and people that love her. She is spoiled, smart, nice, rich, and throughout the story she becomes very brave.
On the night before her 13th birthday, Esperanza's father fails to return home and they later find out that he has been attacked and killed by bandits, who believed he was just a wealthy land owner who took everything for himself, even though this is not true about him in particular.
In their time of mourning, Papa's two step brothers, Tio Luis and Tio Marco come to supposedly help the family through the rough times. However, it doesn't take long for the family to realize the real reason for coming; Tio Luis plans to marry Mama.
Unlike in many stories, Mama is smart, and turns down Tio Luis' proposal. But, as the men ride off, they threaten that unless she changes her mind, they will make things very difficult for the family because they are bank president and mayor of the town.
That night, Esperanza wakes to someone screaming and realizes that her house is on fire. Thankfully everyone escapes without harm, except Abuelita, who has injured her ankle.
The family soon becomes aware that they must flee Mexico before something worse happens to them. However, Abuelita must stay behind on account of her ankle. With their former servants Hortensia, Alfonso, and Miguel they ride on a train to California, where they must work on a farm with Alfonso's brothers' family.
Because she is too young to work, Esperanza must take care of Miguel's baby cousins and do chores around the house during the day. Esperanza has never done chores in her entire life, so, as you can imagine, it was a struggle for her to learn.
After a few weeks at the camp, a dust storm arrives. Before long, Mama gets sick with Valley Fever. A disease that is caused by dust spores on the lungs. The doctor told them that when people move into the area, especially adults, and they aren't used to the air, it is easy for them to get it.
As the days go by, Mama gets worse. When the doctor returns, he decides to put Mama into the hospital. Esperanza feels defeated; at first. But then, she decides to disguise herself as an older person, so that she can work. This will earn money to bring Abuelita to America, because she knows it will make Mama stronger.
Esperanza tries her hardest each day and slowly begins to earn money. She trades the money for money orders when they go to the market, and keeps them in her valise.
One day, Miguel runs away to get a job at the railroad and leaves the camp.
Esperanza's mama comes down with pneumonia along with her Valley Fever. Esperanza decides to reveal the money orders to her. She brings her valise to the hospital and tips it over. The valise is empty!
Esperanza knows that Miguel was the only one who could have taken them, but she cannot figure out why.
I guess you could say that the theme of “Esperanza Rising” is “rising” above all of life's challenges. Throughout the book, Esperanza has many challenges thrown her way. Through it all, Esperanza is slowly overcoming each one.
How would you feel if you were in Esperanza's situation? Would you be like the beginning Esperanza, who felt defeated and hopeless, or would you be like the growing Esperanza who begins to overcome her worries. Why did Miguel take the money orders? Will Esperanza get them back? Will she ever see Abuelita again? Will Mama get better? Read the book Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan to find out!