Esperanza Rising

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan is the story of a wealthy, young, spoiled Mexican girl who is suddenly and unexpectedly forced by circumstances to become a responsible adult.  She must leave her life in Mexico; the only life she's ever known and live in a foreign land, southern California in the 1930's.  She is tested en route to California and comes face-to-face with her shallowness.  While in California she encounters social, economic, and cultural conflicts.  She also finds true love. 

1.  Introduce the novel study by asking the class to brainstorm predictions about what the book is about based on these words you write on the board:  funeral, escape, migrant camp, work ethic, loneliness, illness, mountains and valleys, reunion, love, change.

2.  Next, instead of starting at chapter 1, start at the back of the book!  Read the author's note to the class.  I've found that my students became far more interested in the book when they discovered it was based on a true story.  The novel, however, isn't non-fiction because the author had to fill in the gaps of her family's story as best she could after her grandmother died. 

Discussion questions (<-- click)

Text-to-Text Connection:
Harry Potter series + A Series of Unfortunate Events series + Esperanza Rising
Each of these novels contains the same themes of loneliness, death, and starting over.

(click -->)The myth of the phoenix is a metaphor for Esperanza's life .  Share the myth with your class. 
death = Esperanza's old life in Mexico
rebirth = Esperanza's new life in California

What is a metaphor?  It is the comparison of two unlike things without using the words like, as, resembles, or than.  e.g. He is a walking encyclopedia.  She is the sun.

CHARACTER ANALYSIS is done 6 ways: 
1.  description of looks and clothing                                                                     
2.  what the character says                                                                     
3.  how the character acts                                                                     
4.  describe character's private thoughts and feelings                                                                     
5.  what do the other characters say or think about the                                                                           character                                                                     
6.  narration states directly what the character's pesonality is                                                                         like

Protagonist is the hero or heroine; the good guy
Antagonist is the villain or bad guy

Use fun brightly colored 8 1/2" X 11" paper.  Fold it in quarters to reduce it down to 4 1/4" X 5 1/2".  Now fold back the corner that is really the center of the original full size open paper.  (refer to pictures).  Open the paper and trace a dark line along the folds so you create 8 separate sections.  The 4 outer corners are to be labeled "physical appearance and clothing", "what the character says", "actions", "what the character thinks".  The 4 inner triangles should be labeled "protagonist", "antagonist", "others' thoughts", "direct statements".

If you choose to characterize the main character, Esperanza, then describe her in each section of the foldable.  For example, in the ACTIONS section one could write "hard-working", "caring", "sociable".  When discussing this later as a class as students to provide evidence for their choice of words.  Why does the student think she's hard-working, caring, and sociable?  Continue in this manner until complete.  Encourage students to use thought balloons and dialog balloons in the appropriate sections.