scrounge: /skrounj/ informal verb: to actively seek [books] from any available source
Esperanza Rising is a story inspired by the author's ancestors who came to the United States from Mexico around the time of the Dust Bowl. Esperanza (which means "hope" in Spanish) enjoys a privileged life in a rich family until her father is killed and she and her mother flee to America.
I like the way Esperanza changes as a character during the course of the story. She has a hard time adjusting to a new life of labor where she doesn't even know how to use a broom, given her former lifestyle. But she also sees how the class differences that used to divide her from her servant friends are disappearing as they travel and work together.
The themes of wealth, power, strength, and weakness are explored throughout the story, as well as the importance of family and friendship. I couldn't help but notice the timeliness of this book considering how immigration is in the news these days. Overall it was a very readable story and I enjoyed it -- I could definitely see using it for a history unit.
Scrounged From: PaperbackSwap.com
Author: Pam Munoz Ryan
Content Advisory: Death of a loved one takes place, though it is not explicitly described.
I enjoyed Stella by Starlight -- the story of a black girl named Stella who is living in the depression-era South. Stella doesn't have a lot of power over the events that take place around her -- the segregation, the hurdles her friends and family members are forced to go through just to attempt to cast a ballot, the KKK meetings across the lake, and the arson of the house of her friends. But she learns to find her voice and rely on her family and on the close-knit community she lives in.
Stella wants to write and be a writer, which does not seem entirely uncommon in books about adolescent children written by people who are also writers. What I appreciated was that her struggles and learning seem to be portrayed realistically for the most part. When Stella's teacher announces a writing contest, I expected that Stella, being the protagonist, was probably going to win. But she doesn't. And despite that, she keeps writing. I like seeing that in books aimed at middle grade readers especially -- it's not always about winning -- sometimes it's just about being willing to make mistakes and keep on trying, and the "winning," if it comes at all, may be many years down the road still. But Stella still fights and wins a few victories on the way.
To be honest, there were a few times when it seemed to me that Stella's "voice" sounded too much like an adult trying to speak through a child. Mainly in some of the metaphors and more abstract views she comes up with that seem like they'd be beyond her actual experience.
Still, a good read for the characterizations and writing style, as well as informative about this time period.
Scrounged From: Our local library
Author: Sharon Draper
Content Advisory: As mentioned in the review, KKK activities are mentioned, as well as a scene of arson, scenes of racial discrimination/demeaning treatment, and a few characters are injured or in peril at different times.