Book Review and Music Pairings: Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan

_206890SchEsperanza_0.tifThe story of Esperanza Ortega is a backwards Cinderella. Esperanza Ortega lives at a ranch called El Rancho de Las Rosas (The Ranch of the Roses) with her mother, father, and grandmother. Esperanza’s papa owns it until one day before her 13th birthday, Esperanza’s life is shattered when Alfonso and Miguel, servants of Papa, ride home in the wagon with Papa lying under a blanket in the back, dead

The most devastating part of this entire ordeal is that Papa died the night before little Esperanza’s birthday. Tio Louis and Tio Marco, Esperanza’s uncles, come to “grieve” for Papa. Tio Louis hints to Mama that Papa left the ranch to her , but it is not customary to leave a woman in charge of a household. He makes a proposal…of marriage! Mama is shocked and offended. She says no, of course! Tio Louis says that Mama will regret her decision. That night Esperanza is woken by Mama telling her the house on fire.

They finally agree to leave Mexico. It will be the best thing for them. It will be very tough on Esperanza who has never done an ounce of hard work in her life. They devise a plan to hoax Tio Louis. They follow the plan and leave for California. It is hotter, and the living conditions are worse. Esperanza goes through some more ups and downs in California just like her zig-zag blanket that her grandmother is teaching her how to make. At this point in the story, I had thought of the song, “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey. It shows that Esperanza needs hope. An interesting coincidence is that ‘Esperanza’ in Spanish means ‘hope’. The reason it reminded me of the song is Esperanza’s life is being torn apart. The line, “Hold on to that feeling,” reminded me that Esperanza needs to keep the feeling of love and the memory of Papa. But, by the end, unlike a backwards Cinderella, she feels rich at the end because she has her family, a roof over her head, and is surrounded by the people who love her.

At the end of the book, if the story were made into a movie, the song “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel should be played. At the beginning of the song, it describes the setting of the story: the Mexican Revolution. Then, as the song continues, more events happen just like Esperanza’s tragic life. But the biggest similarity between the two is the chorus. It says “We didn’t start the fire. It was always burning as the world’s been turning.” which relates that Tio Louis and Tio Marco set the fire in Esperanza’s house and through the rest of the story, there was always a fire burning in Esperanza’s heart where Papa used to be.

I would definitely rate this book a 10 out of 10 for its symbolism and its great literary quality. Esperanza Ortega was a real person, making this book based on an actual event. Esperanza was the author’s grandmother, and she told Pam a little bit of her life story. The rest Pam had to make up based on her grandmother’s personality. This book is also similar to Chinese Cinderella in the sense that they were both called Cinderellas by bullies.

Maya Salem, 6th grade

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