family’sranch in Mexico. She would always have fancy dresses and a beautiful home
filled with servants. Papa and Abuelita would always be with her.
But a sudden tragedy shatters her world and Esperanza and Mama flee to California,
where they settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready forthe hard
labor, financialstruggles brought on by the Great Depression, and lack of acceptance she
now faces. When Mama getssick, and a strike for better working conditionsthreatensto
uproot their new life, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult
circumstances—because Mama’slife and her own depend on it.
Pam Muñoz Ryan, has written over 25 booksfor young people including the novel,
Esperanza Rising, winner of the Pura Belpre Medal, the Jane Addams Peace Award, an
ALA Top TenBest Book for Young Adults, and the Americas Award Honor Book. Her
novel, Riding Freedom has garnered many awardsincluding the national Willa Cather
Award, and theCalifornia Young Reader Medal. Her picture booksforthe very young
and picture booksfor older readers, include the award-winning Amelia and Eleanor Go
for a Ride and When Marian Sang, the recipient ofthe ALA Sibert Honor and NCTE's
Orbis Pictus Award. She received her Bachelor's and Master's Degrees at San Diego State
University. She now livesin north San Diego County with her husband and four children.
Pam Muñoz Ryan was born and raised in California's San Joaquin Valley. She isthe
oldest of three sisters and the oldest oftwenty-three cousins on her mother'sside. She
grew up with many of her aunts and uncles and grandparents nearby and considers herself
truly American because her cultural background is an ethnic smorgasbord. She is
Spanish, Mexican, Basque, Italian, and Oklahoman. During many long, hot valley
summers,she spent most of her time riding her bike to the library. It became her favorite
hang out because her family didn't have a swimming pool and the library was airconditioned!
That's how she got hooked on reading and books. After college,she knew
thatshe wanted to work in a profession that had something to do with books, and she
thought that would be teaching. She became a teacher, an administrator and then, at the
encouragement of a friend who thoughtshe could write, began her first book. That's
when she finally knew whatshe really wanted to do.
Suggested Answersto Literature Circle Questions
1. How is Esperanza planning to spend her birthday? What doesshe anticipate
happening? What actually happens?Esperanza anticipates a fiesta on her birthday,
beginning with a serenade from her
father and the men on the ranch, followed by many beautiful gifts(pp. 9-10).
Instead, her father does not return from the field and later his body isfound (p. 22)
and she learns he has been killed by bandits(p. 24).
2. Who is Tío Luis? What does he wantfrom Esperanza’s mother? Does Esperanza like
Tio Luisis one of Papa’sstepbrothers(Tio Marco isthe other) and the local bank
president. After Papa’s death, he wantsto marry Mama so that he not only inherits
the land, but also influence and power so that he can run for governor (pp. 31-33).
Esperanza does not like TioLuis,she thinks he istoo “serious and gloomy,” and
that he andTio Marco “looked like two underfed billy goats,” (p. 19). Her father
had said TioLuisloves “money and power more than people,” and he is considered
a “devious, dangerous man,” (p. 33). He threatensto make life impossible for
Mama ifshe will not marry him, and to sendEsperanza away to boarding school if
3. Why do Esperanza and Mama have to leave ElRancho de las Rosas? Why do they
have to leave in secret?
Tio Luis burnsthe ranch to the ground (pp. 39-42) and threatensto do the same to
the servants’ homesif Mama will not marry him. She agrees, butinstead makes
plansto escape to America (pp. 46-50). They must departin secret because Tio
Luis’ anger atthe humiliation would be so great that he would do anything to find
them and take revenge.
4. What kind of people does Esperanza meet on the train? How doesshe feel about them
and treat them? What does her mother think of her behavior?
Esperanza meets peasants and beggars on the train, thinking “they do notlook very
trustworthy,” (p. 67) although they are in fact all very kind. She does notfeelshe
belongs with them. When a peasant girl triesto touch her doll,she jerksit away
and putsit back in her valise, causing her mother to apologize for her bad manners
(p. 69) and selfishness.
5. Describe Miguel and Esperanza’sfriendship. What do they have in common? What are
Miguel and Esperanza both grew up onEl Rancho de las Rosas, and would play
together often when they were little. Both loved and respected Papa, and Papa
treated Miguel almost like a son. Esperanza had wanted to marry Miguel when she
was a young girl, but asshe became older she felt the differencesin their stations—
she asthe ranch owner’s daughter, and he asthe housekeeper’sson—and that
“between them ran a deep river,” (pp. 17-18). Despite thisthey have greatfondness
for one another, even though they rarely speak.
When they move to California and the work camp, Miguel is more practical about
what needsto be done because he has worked all hislife. Ittakes Esperanza time to
learn this. By the end ofthe book, the river between them has been removed; they
have much in common (and it doesseem likely they may one day marry).6.Listsome of the
challengesthat Esperanza encounters when she comesto the farm
workers’ camp. Why were they so difficult for her?
The cabin they live in reminds Esperanza of a horse’sstable (p. 102);she does not
know how to wash diapers or clothes(pp. 114-115); how to use a broom (pp. 140-
142); or how to cook or feed the babies(pp. 140-142). She thinksthat Hortensia, her
former servant, willstill bathe her (pp. 126-127). She was pampered in her previous
life in Mexico and never had to learn to take care of these thingsfor herself.
Hortensia says on page 126, “We are accustomed to doing things a certain way,
7. Who are you more like—Esperanza when she first arrives at the farm camp or Isabel?
Answers will vary—some students may identify withEsperanza’s difficulties
adjusting to life in the camp, while others mightfind Isabel’s optimism appealing.
Conversely, Esperanza might be seen asspoiled in her initial complaints and
selfishness, and Isabel as naïve - as when she dreams of being picked as Queen ofthe
May, although no Mexican girl is ever chosen.
8. On page 133 Esperanza asks why Marta isso angry and Josephina offers her one
explanation. Do you agree with her answer? Why? What other possible reasons are there
for Marta’s anger?
Josephina explainsthat Marta and her family are angry aboutthe conditionsin
which they are forced to live as migrant workers. There is room here to discuss
what feelings and actions are reasonable and unreasonable when situations are
unfair. Willfighting unjustsituations make a difference, or do some people justlike
9. How does working on finishing Abuelita’s blanketsustain Esperanza when her mother
issick? What doesit remind her of? What do you think itsymbolizes?
Working on the blanket reminds Esperanza of Abuelita’slove and good wishes(p.
159), and of her promise to Abuelita to take care of Mama (p. 160). The valleys and
mountainsin the blanket can be seen to symbolize the ups and downsin
Esperanza’sjourney through life. It also serves as a reminder to “not be afraid to
start over,” as Abuelita tells Esperanza when she islearning to crochet(p. 15) and
Isabel at the end ofthe book (p. 253). Esperanza muststart over in America, just as
Abuelita did when she came to Mexico from Spain as a girl.
10. Reread the description on pages 176-178 of Esperanza’s hospital visit to her mother.
Isit a hopeful visit or an upsetting one? Support your idea with detailsfrom the text.
The visitseems hopeful, althoughEsperanza’s mother doesn’t wake up. The
Christmas gifts other visitors are bringing to the hospital are cheerful, and though
Esperanza wishesshe could have brought more than the smallstone she’d found in
the fieldsitisstill an expression oflove. She tells her sleeping mother that Miguel
thinks Papa’s rosesshow signs of growth, and hopesthatthe blanket will bring
color to her cheeks. In partingEsperanza says, “Don’t worry. I will take care of
everything. I will be la patrona ofthe family now.” Esperanza is gaining confidenceand
strength, and hopes her mother will improve, as well.
11. Imagine you were taken out of your life right now and put in a work camp like
Esperanza’s. How would you react? What would be hard for you? What would be easy?
Answers will vary. Life atthe work camp is difficult and unfair, especially
compared toEsperanza’s previous position of wealth. While students may feel
sweeping the platform or taking care of the babies are thingsthey could handle,
there would be many other things abouttheir present life they take for granted
which would be missed. There is room for discussion asto whether they would
immediately take the side of Marta and the strikers, or ifthey would be more
concerned with continuing to work in the fieldsso they could take care oftheir
families’ immediate needs.
12. Imagine you could write a letterto Esperanza. What would you want to say to her?
What would you want to ask her?
Answers will vary. Students may wantto tell Esperanza that everything willturn
out all rightin the end, or thatshe should understand more quickly thatthe work
camp will very differentfrom Rancho de las Rosas, and thatshe shouldn’t expectto
be taken care of in the same way.
13. On page 208 itsays, “Something seemed very wrong aboutsending people away
from their own “free country” because they had spoken their minds.” Do you agree?
It islikely thatstudents will be especially surprised that even citizens born in the
United States who had never even been to Mexico would be deported. There is
much room for discussion asto what rights citizensshould have, or expect. Some
may also believe thatthere are situations where the government may think
deportation is a good idea, although the book’s point of view would notsupportthis.
14. Explain the title of the book. How doesitrelate to the story? Use detailsfrom the
story to support your point of view.
Esperanza is Spanish for “hope.” There isthe literal meaning of “hope rising”
which Esperanza feels when her life improves asshe learnsto take care of herself
and others, as her mother’s health improves, and when Abuelita joinsthem in
Abuelita hastoldEsperanza the story of the phoenix (pp. 49-50), the mythical bird
which risesfrom the ashes. After Papa’s death and the fire at Rancho de las Rosas,
Esperanza, her family, and their servants also rise from these disasters asthey make
a new life for themselves. So, too, do the roses Miguel and Alfonso rescue from the
burned ground atthe ranch and plant atthe work camp (pp. 122-124).
Esperanza also has a vision of “floating and drifting upward” (p. 92), which atfirst
frightens her because she feels herselflosing control and falling. She has not yet
learned confidence in herself. But atthe end ofthe book on pages 249-250,she has
the vision again, butthistime she is unafraid and “soared with the anticipation of
dreamsshe never knew she could have, oflearning English, ofsupporting her
family, ofsomeday buying a tiny house.” She is no longer afraid ofstarting over.