Esperanza thought she’d always live with her family on their ranch in Mexico–she’d always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home, and servants. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When their new life is threatened, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances–Mama’s life, and her own, depend on it. – Goodreads
This is the final book required for my literacy class and it was one of my favorites. Esperanza Ortega is a privileged girl on her father’s ranch. She has grown up with servants and nice clothes, horses and dolls, everything handed to her. Until her father is killed. Her uncles try to force Esperanza’s mother into some things, so they flee for California, where the land of opportunity awaits. Of course, it’s not exactly what it seems either. Esperanza is privileged, like I said, and spoiled and prejudiced. She treats “peasants” with some scorn, she has never bathed herself without the help of a female servant, and she is startled when one of the field worker’s sons points out that the lighter skinned Mexicans are top tier and the rest work. She doesn’t seem to understand that her family is fleeing to California to work, not continue the life they had in Mexico. She’s bratty, but it’s almost endearing, because you know what’s coming next, and you know it will change her.
Like all the books I had to read for this class, Esperanza Rising is a coming-of-age tale. Esperanza has to leave her old life behind and become someone else, which isn’t easy when other girls call you “Cinderella” and you don’t even know how to sweep a platform. Esperanza also has to try to understand foreign terms like “strikes” and is presented with the other side of the Mexican civil war, the side of those who tried to bring men like her father down. It’s a lot of change happening at once for a thirteen-year-old girl, and I felt enormously sorry for her. But she does rise. Oh, does she rise.
When her mother is sick, Esperanza takes to the fields. She becomes one of the best workers. She transforms. She becomes a real person. She endures hardships, and loss, and sadness. She grows and doesn’t hold onto any grudge or hate. This story was inspiring and eye-opening. One of the best stories I’ve read all year.
Scholastic’s next multi-platform mega-event begins here!
Dak, Sera, and Riq might be in over their heads when they attempt to stop a Viking invasion!
Hundreds of ships carrying thousands of warriors are laying siege to medieval Paris. The Parisians are holding their own, but the stalemate can only last so long. And that’s bad news — especially since Dak has been captured, forced to work alongside the Vikings while Sera and Riq defend Paris from within. No matter which side wins, the kids lose!
Middle grade time again! I got the first Infinity Ring novel from NetGalley last year, and the third Infinity Ring novel from NetGalley this year, and I somehow missed this one, so I went out and bought the ebook. Yay! It’s a super easy read, only 192 pages. In this installment, Sera, Dak, and Riq are in France in 882, and things start off badly right from the beginning, when Dak scales a wall and rocks start raining down on the friends. This time they’re up against Vikings, and while those are my ancestors, I certainly wouldn’t send kids out to deal with them. (Read Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories for a more… realistic historical account of how that usually went.) I was confused off the bat because I wasn’t sure which Viking invasion they were trying to head off (this is less clear than the Christopher Columbus story from the first novel), and they kept referring to “Paris” and “an island” in the same sentence. What? I decided to just sit back and let it unfold, however, since messed-up history is these books’ MO (and eventually you learn that yes, Paris is on an island, it’s own island). And honestly, I’m happy these books are nicer than the real thing, because Cornwell’s novels tend to be full of animal death and other awful things I’d rather pretend never happened. Anyway. Onward!
As someone being trained as a teacher, Dak and Riq’s little rivalry was starting to get on my nerves, but it was understandable, and really, both boys aren’t lacking in
arrogance self-confidence. In fact, I thought Dak was a little stupid in this one. He’s eleven, yes, and naturally impulsive, but come on, at least stop and think for a second. He hasn’t so much “been captured” as “walked right into the enemies’ hands.” This, however, proves to be eye-opening not only for Dak, but for the reader. Dak begins to see the Vikings not as a group of fearsome beasts, but as real people just trying to find a place to live and marry. He begins to grow close to them, and he finds an unlikely ally. Meanwhile, Riq and Sera have screwed up royally, and need to figure out a way to fix things.
I was just extremely frustrated with these children, Dak especially, though Sera had her moments. Like I said before, sending preteens to fix history is just a bad idea, and it was really made clear in this novel. Dak is unable to learn his lesson, and he endangers their mission and his friends so many times, he is almost useless. I won’t stop reading, but I hope that by the next book, Dak starts realizing there are consequences to his actions and stops being selfish.
Let me be upfront: I liked the first Infinity Ring book a lot more than this one. I’m not sure what didn’t work for me, as I usually like Viking history, but it just didn’t. Maybe because I know the violent realities of real Viking conquests? I’m not sure why I had such a hard time suspending my disbelief here. I’m usually better at it when it comes to middle-grade. Maybe this one just really drove it home to me how insane it is to send a bunch of eleven-year-olds out to save the world. Still though, this was a solid story, and it moves along nicely. I was never bored while reading. Next up in the series, The Trap Door by Lisa McMann!