Esperanza Rising is a beautiful
story of a young girl who started off rich in Mexico and ended up working
on a farm labor camp in California. The book begins with a quote
from a Mexican proverb that translated into English reads: "The rich person
is richer when he becomes poor, than the poor person when he becomes rich."
It's a perfect quote because it describes the real meaning behind the story
-- how through Esperanza's hard work and suffering, she becomes a successful
and wonderful woman. Even though Esperanza struggles through some
terrible times, her story is about beauty, love and, of course, hope.
This book also has an incredible
and passionate author's note. Rarely have I felt so moved from reading
an author's not, but this one really go to me. (New
Hampshire Great Stone Face Committee)
"Do not ever be afraid to start over."
This is the advice given to 12-year-old Esperanza by her wise and loving
Abuelita. Esperanza does not know it, but she will have to follow
that advice more than once in the months to come. She is the secure and
happy daughter of a wealthy vineyard owner in Mexico, but her world is
about to be turned upside down, beginning with the sudden death of her
"It wasn't until the candelabra held nothing but short studs of tallow
that Mama finally said: "I see a lantern. Someone it coming!"
They hurried to the courtyard and watched a distant light, a small beacon
of hope swaying in the darkness.
The wagon came into view. Alfonso held the reins and Miguel the lantern.
When the wagon stopped, Esperanza could see a body in the back, completely
covered with a blanket.
"Where's Papa?" she cried.
Miguel hung his head. Alfonso didn't say a word but the tears running
down his round cheeks confirmed the worst.
Abuelita and Hortensia ran to her side.
Esperanza felt her heart drop. A noise came from her mouth and slowly,
her first breath of grief grew into a tormented cry. She fell to
her knees and sank into a dark hole of despair and disbelief. (pp21-22)
Without Papa, Esperanza and her mother are at the mercy of Papa's greedy
brothers, and are forced to flee to the United States, leaving frail Abuelita
In Mexico they were privileged aristocrats. In California, there
is discrimination against Mexican immigrants, who are seen as just a source
of cheap farm labor. Esperanza has to learn to do basic jobs, such
as sweeping, and caring for children, that she has never had to do before.
The work is hard; the food is simple, and Esperanza and Mama struggle like
Esperanza grieves for her father, worries for her mother, and longs for
Abuelita. If only they could afford to send for her! Esperanza
is determined to make that happen. Her name means "hope", and in Esperanza
Rising, hope is sometimes all there is. Although they have little
else, the family will carry on, so long as they have each other.
Do not ever be afraid to start over.
This book won the Belpre Award, which is given for outstanding children's
literature that celebrates the Latino/a experience. (Liz Hane, University
of South Carolina School of Library and Information Science, student, LJH79@aol.com)
Esperanza Ortega grows up on
a large ranch in Mexico, but her life suddenly changes when her father
is killed. She and Mama leave their comfortable life behind when they are
forced to flee to a Mexican farm labor camp in California. At the camp,
they learn to confront the challenges of hard physical work, as well as
the economic problems caused by the Great Depression. Throughout this highly
recommended book, Esperanza faces hardships and problems with courage and
State Young Readerís Award Program, 2004-2005)