Esperanza Rising

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

 girl in yellow dress book cover

​BIBLIO:2000 Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., ages 8 and up, $17.99.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
​FORMAT: Chapter Book
ISBN13: 978-0-439-12041-8

A charming riches to rags tale about a young girl named Esperanza quickly grabs the heartstrings of its readers. This also can be categorized as a coming of age novel as the reader follows Esperanza for her whole thirteenth year. The focus of this story is on Esperanza and her family from El Rancho de La Rosas and from the Labor Camp. The book starts by showing Esperanza’s privilege and her excitement about her thirteenth birthday. The reader is introduced to her loving Papa and graceful Mama and quirky Abuelita. The servants Hortensia, Alfonso, and Miguel are also introduced as loyal workers and close family friends. Tragedy occurs when Papa is attacked by bandits on the edge of their property. The whole ranch falls apart and Esperanza’s uncles look to gain power and money from their brothers’ demise. When Mama rebuffs Uncle Luis’s proposal he burns down the vineyards and their beloved home. He also makes it difficult for them to escape to the United States.
Alfonso’s brother works in the migrant camp and arranged for all of them to arrive but Abuelita is too weak to accompany them and must stay under the peril of the uncles. The group successfully move to the migrant camp and Esperanza struggles to adapt to living in the poverty of migrant labor but also in the midst of the great depression. She quickly realizes how little she knows about life but she has her new family Josefina, Juan, Isabel, Lupe, Pepe, and those she traveled with to teach her and she soon becomes rich with experiences.
Throughout the novel there are a lot of tribulations in addition to those mentioned. Mama gets sick and depressed and must live in the hospital away from Esperanza and their family. Esperanza begins to work with the women of the family in the sheds to pack produce and support her mother’s medical bills and those who care for her. There is also a lot of talk about striking, the Oklahoma migrants coming from the Midwest in hopes of a new life after living in the dustbowl. There is also an underlying theme of social prejudice and sketchy government behavior such as the Deportation Act.
This book is touching and worth reading. It won the Pura Belpre Award and for good reason. It shows fabulously the life of a minority group in a realistic and personally touching way.

The Hero Two Doors Down

The Hero Two Doors Down
Based on the True Story of Friendship
between a Boy and a Baseball Legend
by Sharon Robinson

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BIBLIO: 2016, New York: Scholastic Press; Scholastic Inc, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
FORMAT: Middle Grade book
ISBN: 978-0-545-80451-6

Written in the first person narrative Steve reflects on his childhood baseball relics set aside for him by his recently deceased father and remembers when as an eight-year old, the famous Jackie Robinson moves into his neighborhood and his life. 1948 Brooklyn is an amazing time for Steve. Bonding over baseball with his father Archie, is what he lives for, listening endlessly to the radio-casted games and reading the paper for news about their beloved Dogers. Steve itches to see the opening game for the season and to meet Jackie Robinson. Amazingly his dad surprises him with both on the same day! The two families become close friends and begin to have dinners, attend games, give gifts, and share their differences happily. Jackie’s influence on Steven doesn’t stop there as the man encourages Steven to focus on school and behave better, and teaches Steven valuable lessons when he falls short. The baseball legend successfully sways most of Steven’s schoolmates into his favor and the fear and prejudice of the Jewish neighborhood melts quickly away after encountering Jackie’s charming and gentle personality. Sharon Robinson briefly addresses the readers in the afterword with the changes she makes to the true tale, pictures, and her accounts of the very real Stephen Satlow. A feel-good story perfect for sports fans and novices alike, this book has some great perspective on maturity, religion, race, and relationships, ideal for conversations amongst families and classmates.