Nancy Keane's Booktalks -- Quick and Simple

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Ryan, Pam Munoz
New York : Scholastic, 2000.
IL 5-8  RL 6.2
ISBN 0439120411
(3 booktalks)
Booktalk #1

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)

Booktalk #2

                    "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 father:
                    "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.
                        Mama fainted.
                        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 behind.
                    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 everyone else.
                    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,

Booktalk #3

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 hope.   (Sunshine State Young Readerís Award Program, 2004-2005)

SUBJECTS:     Mexican Americans -- California -- Fiction.
                       Agricultural laborers -- Fiction.
                        California -- Fiction.


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