I love this book.
Esperanza Rising makes for a perfect guided or shared reading text. There are rich themes and ample opportunities for discussion.
A man with a small goat on his lap grinned at Esperanza, revealing no teeth. Three barefoot children, two boys and a girl, crowded near their mother. Their legs were chalky with dust, their clothes were in tatters, and their hair was grimy. An old, frail beggar woman pushed by them to the back of the car, clutching a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Her hand was outstretched for Alms.
Esperanza had never been so close to so many peasants before. When she went to school, all of her friends were like her. When she went to town, she was escorted and hurried around any beggars. And the peasants always kept their distance. That was simply the way it was. She couldn't help but wonder if they would steal her things.
"Mama," said Esperanza, stopping in the doorway. "We cannot travel in this car. It... it is not clean. And the people do not look trustworthy." (p.66-67)What makes some stories so lyrical & enjoyable when properly read aloud?
In that passage, there's mood-laced exposition with its rhythm and concrete descriptions. No teeth. Barefoot children. Dust. Tatters. Grimy. Beggar. Our imaginations are filled with just enough theme-rich detail to induce a reaction. The author, Pam Munoz Ryan, then reveals some more back-story about the main character and her worldview (which is likely to also induce a reaction from readers). Then the strong beat comes at us as Esperanza gracelessly and regrettably conveys a class judgement in front of everybody.
- Setting as setup (details with thematic clues, but without saturating "working memory")
- --> Revelations that tug at reader emotions
- ----> A powerful beat that exposes her worldview to conflict with family/friends
I've seen 5th graders completely enthralled by this book. They fought over copies. They sat motionless when given a chance to listen to the audiobook with the lights low. They drifted to this distant time and truly cared about the characters.
In terms of revelation and exposition, I've put this book on my "short shelf" of model texts.
What are the other devices and structures that authors use to manage exposition and back-story without losing the "flow" of narration? What other books weave in exposition so masterfully that it naturally reads aloud?