What did you read when you were in elementary school? It looks like this will turn into a series thanks to an engaged parent who alerted me to upcoming reading assignments. First, let’s review:
Next up, 4th graders read about immigration and class. In this installment we find another book, Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan, which brings heavy themes to 4th graders. From Publishers Weekly (emphasis mine):
Told in a lyrical, fairy tale – like style, Ryan’s (riding Freedom) robust novel set in 1930 captures a Mexican girl’s fall from riches, her immigration to California and her growing awareness of class and ethnic tensions. Thirteen-year-old Esperanza Ortega and her family are part of Mexico’s wealthy, land-owning class in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Her father is a generous and well-loved man who gives his servants land and housing. Early in the novel, bandits kill Esperanza’s father, and her corrupt uncles threaten to usurp their home. Their servants help her and her mother flee to the United States, but they must leave Esperanza’s beloved Abuelita (grandmother) behind until they can send for her. Ryan poetically conveys Esperanza’s ties to the land by crafting her story to the rhythms of the seasons. Each chapter’s title takes its name from the fruits Esperanza and her countrymen harvest, first in Aguascalientes, then in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Ryan fluidly juxtaposes world events (Mexico’s post-revolution tensions, the arrival of Oklahoma’s Dust Bowl victims and the struggles between the U.S. government and Mexican workers trying to organize) with one family’s will to survive – while introducing readers to Spanish words and Mexican customs. Readers will be swept up by vivid descriptions of California dust storms or by the police crackdown on a labor strike (“”The picket signs lay on the ground, discarded, and like a mass of marbles that had already been hit, the strikers scattered?””). Ryan delivers subtle metaphors via Abuelita’s pearl’s of wisdom, and not until story’s end will readers recognize how carefully they have been strung.
From Amazon: From School Library Journal
Grade 6-9-Ryan uses the experiences of her own Mexican grandmother as the basis for this compelling story of immigration and assimilation, not only to a new country but also into a different social class. Esperanza’s expectation that her 13th birthday will be celebrated with all the material pleasures and folk elements of her previous years is shattered when her father is murdered by bandits. His powerful stepbrothers then hold her mother as a social and economic hostage, wanting to force her remarriage to one of them, and go so far as to burn down the family home. Esperanza’s mother then decides to join the cook and gardener and their son as they move to the United States and work in California’s agricultural industry. They embark on a new way of life, away from the uncles, and Esperanza unwillingly enters a world where she is no longer a princess but a worker. Set against the multiethnic, labor-organizing era of the Depression, the story of Esperanza remaking herself is satisfyingly complete, including dire illness and a difficult romance. Except for the evil uncles, all of the characters are rounded, their motives genuine, with class issues honestly portrayed. Easy to booktalk, useful in classroom discussions, and accessible as pleasure reading, this well-written novel belongs in all collections.
Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Again, this is Wake County, one of the largest school districts in North Carolina and the country. This story shapes children’s views on class, immigration, unions, police, etc. Do you think this is appropriate for 4th graders?
Will students read Johnny Tremain? or similar works? Engage your children, try the Rush Revere Series to encourage your children to read and learn about the founding of America in a fun way. Please chime in the comments section with books you recommend for young readers.
Esperanza Rising is not on the Common Core suggested reading list.
Update: Thanks for linking!