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Esperanza Rising Book Review

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Esperanza RisingEsperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan was a surprisingly good novel set in Post Revolutionary Mexico and Great Depression Era California.  Esperanza is a young girl who was born into a wealthy family and has never known poverty.  That is, until her father is killed by bandits, and her uncles take over the land.  Esperanza and her mother are forced to leave their home to avoid a forced remarriage of Esperanza’s mother.  The two, along with three loyal servants steal away in a mango cart toward California and the promise of freedom.
In California, Esperanza learns what it is like to be poor and an immigrant.  She learns to work hard, to make do, and to think about someone other than herself. Like the mythical Phoenix she rises from the ashes to remake herself.  This was an excellent book and one I want to share with my students.

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THE OUTSIDERS by S. E. Hinton

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The OutsidersThe Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is amazing that S.E. Hinton wrote The Outsiders as a teenager in high school and had it published in her first year of college. The novel takes place in 1965 in Oklahoma and the action is between two teenage groups the Socs and the Greasers. The two groups are always clashing and fighting. The Socs are the rich kids who drive mustangs and the Greasers are the poor kids without much but their “tuff” look.

The book opens with the main character, Ponyboy, jumped by a group of Socs as he is leaving the movie house. Ponyboy is saved by his gang of Greasers that include his two older brothers. Darry takes care of his younger brothers after their parents die in a car crash and Sodapop, a high school dropout works at a garage.

The next evening Ponyboy and his best friend, Johnny, meet two Socs girls named Cherry Valance and Marcia. Ponyboy learns that Cherry and he have a lot in common. They meet up with the drunken boyfriends of Cherry and Marcia and the girls go home with them to avoid a fight. The problems escalate as the story continues until Ponyboy and Johnny are on the run because Johnny killed one of the Socs when they ambushed the boys in the park.

This story, though it takes place more than 40 years ago, is still a favorite with teenagers, today. The themes of bridging the gap between rich and poor, honor, courage, loyalty, and sorrow are timeless. The time and the look of the story may be antiquated; however, the themes presented in the novel still ring true. Teenagers can associate and feel compassion for the plight of the greasers.

The writing style is simplistic and easy to follow. Overall, the plot makes the story a good read no matter what age you are. Once you finish the book, you may wish to rent the movie. Many stars got their start in this movie directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Some faces you will recognize are Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, and Rob Lowe. This is a must read.

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