I had to read this book for my Children's Literature Course this fall. I really wanted to like this book, but I found there to be discrepancies in the...moreI had to read this book for my Children's Literature Course this fall. I really wanted to like this book, but I found there to be discrepancies in the story to really deter me from using in a classroom. I understand that Historical Fiction is a hard topic to approach, but my feeling if you are going to breech the field, your facts really need to be correct, especially if you would like your book to be used in a school's curriculum. While with fiction, you can take some liberties with subject matter I felt too many liberties where taken with this book.
I have yet to really figure out what time period Pam Ryan was trying to go for in the book. She alludes to many different time periods without giving any real proper depth to any one subject. She would have been better to pick one aspect of history in this time frame and stick with it. Examples, are mostly with her choosing the Great Depression she spawns off in other aspects. This makes it difficult to use in a 4th or 5th grade classroom. While I understand Elementary School is all done on multi levels reading often tying in with Social Studies, the historical aspect of this book is far too broad. The book is supposed to be set during the Great Depression, but there were illusions to unrest with the US and Mexico, much of which was during the 1840's. That's not to say that everything was solved by the Great Depression, but much of the land disputes that Ryan refers to in the beginning of the book stem from issues in the US-Mexican war in the 1840's, about 100 years before this book was supposed to be set.
While The Mexican Revolution occurred 10-20 years before the time set of the book as well, I think that Ryan doesn't properly clarify in which historical period she wanted to address. While there were issues with land and boarders, which is more of the issues with the US-Mexico wars vs. the revolution.
The other big date issue I had with the historical aspect of the book, Esperanza's Mexican family moves to California to work on farms. If this was supposed to be in the late 20's and 30's, during the Great Depression, when many of the US citizen's couldn't find work, I really don't think that Mexicans would be given work, let alone strike. While people from Oklahoma were coming and starting to threaten their jobs, Ryan again looses out on a good opportunity to touch further on a good teachable moment. Many people were out of work at this time, that I don't think many people would be willing to go on a strike let alone try and convince multiple other people to join their cause for better work conditions. Also, I don't think a young teenager would really be one of the major ringleaders of a strike.
The other period discrepancy for this book is that during the Great Depression is that California and much of the Western part of the United States where in the midst of the Dust Bowl. While the book alluded to the Dustbowl with a dust storm, the Dustbowl was significant enough that the quantity of crops that the farm they were working on would never actually occur. While I realize this book is fiction, and is meant to be used in a classroom, I find there are too many discrepancies to properly describe or correct in a 4th or 5th grade social studies class.
While I can appreciate the fact that Ryan probably wants to touch on many issues that can be talking points in a classroom, trying to bring up so many points in a 200 page book makes my head hurt and I can only imagine it being an issue for a younger reader. She has far too many points that she mentions without really developing much into any one in particular. Since she attempts to have the story take place during a single calendar year, it would have been more beneficial for her points to pick a specific year and develop historical themes from that aspect rather than picking a time period which spans 10-15 years and touch on many aspects that came up within that time frame.
While I think it does bring up some valid multicultural issues, and I like how they include Spanish, I think the book itself aside from the historical aspects would be enjoyable for young readers. I think the language has a good flow. She has some great ideas like the different aspects of measuring the passing of years, and the aspects of including family and such. I think the themes where appropriate for children. The characters seemed to have trouble changing, either too much or not enough.
While Esperanza goes from a spoiled rotten 13 year old who couldn't figure out how to sweep, to a 14 year old who worked in a vegetable packing shed and a babysitter who paid all of her mother's hospitable bills, and saved enough money to bring her grandmother from Mexico. I understand you must maintain a certain interest for children, but I feel that Ryan used up far too many fiction liberties. I don't think I would use this book in my classroom.(less)
I wasn't super impressed with this book. Having gone to a boarding school myself, I found bits and pieces of the book authentic to the boarding school...moreI wasn't super impressed with this book. Having gone to a boarding school myself, I found bits and pieces of the book authentic to the boarding school atmosphere. However, I found some of Lee's thought process on things to be annoying and just to mundane and whiny at times. There was no real point to drive the plot. We all knew that she'd graduate at the end, but there was no real conflict or plot pushers. The story just seemed to plod along. I had merely picked this up last year because it was a book left in my apartment, however, I hadn't liked Catcher in the Rye for many of the same reasons as this book, that there wasn't any real driving force to the book, and she just bitched for 400 pages. I thought in this book, though, the characters at times, were more believable than in Catcher in the Rye. I certainly thought some of the drivel could and should have been removed, for example I really didn't need, nor did I want to read 50 pages of her questioning herself in whether or not she wanted to continually cut people's hair. UGGH.(less)
I finished this book last week. Everyone had highly recommended it. It started off really well, but I got bored with it. The storyline just sort of fi...moreI finished this book last week. Everyone had highly recommended it. It started off really well, but I got bored with it. The storyline just sort of fizzled. While the concepts of loss seemed authentic it seemed cliched in areas and by the end, I just wanted to finish it. I did like how she did cover the life of the family after. The approach to the book was interesting and fresh, but it was the development of the story and written lines and ideas expressed throughout the book that seemed all to familiar to other things I've read recently. We see how I feel a few days or weeks from now.(less)
For all the hype this book recived I really didn't think it lived up to the expectations I had. I found the relationship and time spent at Henry's ver...moreFor all the hype this book recived I really didn't think it lived up to the expectations I had. I found the relationship and time spent at Henry's very interesting, as well as Edgar's relationship and bonds he had with dogs, however, a lot of the book didn't ever really seem to conjoin properly together. I just found the time and effort spent on describing all the training of the dogs just a series of floating information. The information on the origin of the dog breed was interesting, but dragged on for far to long. I felt the book could have been more effective if consolidated. I felt that it was more a series of short stories he had written on the same charachter and combined them all into one novel, with out really considering how to properly string them together.(less)