Tag Archives: chapter book

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

17 Mar

Ryan’s story is full of vivid imagery and painful lessons. It is a story about Esperanza, a privileged girl living in Mexico during the Great Depression. After Esperanza’s father is murdered by bandits, Tio Louis offers to buy her home, but does not offer a fair price. Esperanza’s other refuses to sell and the whole property including the vineyards is set on fire and burns to the ground. Tio Louis then offers his hand in marriage to Esperanza’s mother. Esperanza’s mother and Esperanza prepare to flee Mexico with their servants and head to California to begin a new life. This is where Esperanza’s story really begins. During one episode, Esperanza is taught how to prepare potatoes for planting. Esperanza’s mother becomes ill with valley fever and Esperanza has to survive and work to pay for her mother’s care. During this time Miguel, her friend steals all of her money and vanishes in to thin air. Miguel does eventually resurface retrieving Esperanza’s grandmother from Mexico. This is a deep story about survival, injustice and what it truly means to live.

Winner of the Pura Belpre award

Suggested Library Activity:

Have students research this time period. Have them imagine what it would be like to be children living during this time. Create a news broadcast and interview someone from this time (another student can act a character out). What kinds of questions would they ask someone from this time period?

Bibliographic Citation:

Ryan, Pam Munoz. (2008). Esperanza rising. New York: Scholastic.

Additional Book Reviews:

“Esperanza Rising is a very thought provoking book about the plight of those seeking seasonal employment on the big farms in California during the Great Depression. Esperanza learns the value of hard work and after a while overcomes her selfish ways…”
Wednesday, B. (2010, May 19). Book Review: Esperanza Rising.


Horn Book starred (Spring 2001)

In this poignant look at the realities of immigration, thirteen-year-old Esperanza, daughter of an affluent Mexican rancher, is forced to trade fancy dolls and dresses for hard work and ill-fitting hand-me-downs after her beloved father dies. Laboring in the United States, picking grapes on someone else’s land for pennies an hour, Esperanza is transformed into someone who can take care of herself and others.


Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

17 Mar

Book Cover

This is the story of Bud Caldwell, an orphan living during the Great Depression. After much adversity and repeated abuse from his foster brother Todd Amos, Bud decides to runaway from his home in Flint, Michigan. He sets out to find Herman Calloway, a supposed relative. Along the way Bud befriends a railroad porter  named Lefty Lewis and Lewis offers a place for Bud to sleep. Bud eventually meets up with Herman Calloway and receives a cold welcome from Calloway. When Bud’s collection of rocks are discovered, Calloway believes that Bud has stolen them.


This story is  emphasizes good prevails (even though it is not a realistic view), even in challenging times. This book is superb. I would use this as a read aloud in class as a way to discuss determination and strength in character. Bud, Not Buddy is the recipient of the Coretta Scott King award and also the recipient of the Newbery Medal. This title is a must for an elementary school’s library collection and an essential read for any elementary student.

Suggested Library Activity:

Have students create a class newspaper focusing on different aspects of the novel’s time period. Include information on homelessness, Jazz, the Great Depression, etc. Have students gather all their research and create a  newspaper to be displayed in the library for all to read.

Bibliographic Citation:

Curtis, C. (1999). Bud, not buddy. New York: Delacorte Press.

Additional Book Review:

As in his Newbery Honor-winning debut, The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963, Curtis draws on a remarkable and disarming mix of comedy and pathos, this time to describe the travails and adventures of a 10-year-old African-American orphan in Depression-era Michigan. Bud is fed up with the cruel treatment he has received at various foster homes, and after being locked up for the night in a shed with a swarm of angry hornets, he decides to run away. His goal: to reach the man he–on the flimsiest of evidence–believes to be his father, jazz musician Herman E. Calloway. Relying on his own ingenuity and good luck, Bud makes it to Grand Rapids, where his “”father”” owns a club. Calloway, who is much older and grouchier than Bud imagined, is none too thrilled to meet a boy claiming to be his long-lost son. It is the other members of his band–Steady Eddie, Mr. Jimmy, Doug the Thug, Doo-Doo Bug Cross, Dirty Deed Breed and motherly Miss Thomas–who make Bud feel like he has finally arrived home. While the grim conditions of the times and the harshness of Bud’s circumstances are authentically depicted, Curtis shines on them an aura of hope and optimism. And even when he sets up a daunting scenario, he makes readers laugh–for example, mopping floors for the rejecting Calloway, Bud pretends the mop is “”that underwater boat in the book Momma read to me, Twenty Thousand Leaks Under the Sea.”” Bud’s journey, punctuated by Dickensian twists in plot and enlivened by a host of memorable personalities, will keep readers engrossed from first page to last. Ages 9-12. (Sept.)

Publisher’s Weekly. (1999, September 6). Book Review Bud, Not Buddy. Retrieved from  http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-385-32306-2

Horn Book (November/December, 1999)

In a story that’s as far-fetched as it is irresistible, and as classic as it is immediate, a deserving orphan boy finds a home. It’s the Depression, and Bud (not Buddy) is ten and has been on his own since his mother died when he was six. In and out of the Flint, Michigan, children’s home and foster homes ever since, Bud decides to take off and find his father after a particularly terrible, though riotously recounted, evening with his latest foster family. Helped only by a few clues his mother left him, and his own mental list of “Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself,” Bud makes his way to a food pantry, then to the library to do some research (only to find that his beloved librarian, one Charlemae Rollins, has moved to Chicago), and finally to the local Hooverville where he just misses hopping a freight to Chicago. Undaunted, he decides to walk to Grand Rapids, where he hopes his father, the bandleader Herman E. Calloway, will be. Lefty Lewis, the kindly union man who gives Bud a lift, is not the first benevolent presence to help the boy on his way, nor will he be the last. There’s a bit of the Little Rascals in Bud, and a bit more of Shirley Temple as his kind heart and ingenuous ways bring tears to the eyes of the crustiest of old men-not his father, but close enough. But Bud’s fresh voice keeps the senti-mentality to a reasonable simmer, and the story zips along in step with Bud’s own panache. r.s.

Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women by Cornelia Meigs

28 Feb

Invincible Louisa is a biographical story about Louisa May Alcott, author of the well know title Little Women. This story describes Louisa’s family life and experiences starting with her birth in Germantown, Pennsylvania. This story breathes life in to Louisa May Alcott’s past existence.  It chronicles the hardships she endured, the most notable one  being the death of Louisa’s sister, May Alcott. The story shows how Louisa harnessed her family life as inspiration for her writing. The book colorfully describes the plays Louisa would write and have her sisters perform. Prominent figures emerge throughout the telling of Louisa’s life such as Elizabeth Peabody and Nathaniel Hawthorne. This story also describes her special friendship with family friend Ralph Waldo Emerson who is thought to have been the primary person that encouraged  her to write. This story is a rich and  accurate account of Louisa May Alcott.  It is sure to be an enjoyable and interesting read for any fan of Louisa May Alcott or any person interested in her history.


I have always been curious as to the person behind The Little Women books and I found this book satiated my curiosity for now. For anyone interested in Louisa May Alcott, this is a great starting point since it is a quick-read. It is a fictionalized account that uses major events from Louisa’s life to form a complex story. It demonstartes how Louisa, a timid child  grew-up to write one of the most beloved children’s books of all time.

Suggested Library Activity:

When teaching the history of the Civil War, give students this book as a choice to read between others that put the war in context with people’s lives during this time. Have students identify the many viewpoints and opinions from people during this time. Have them create their own character from this period giving a brief paragraph with one citation. Include  illustrations portraying what life was like during this time in the United States.

Cover of Invincible Louisa written in 1934

Bibliographic Citation:

Meigs, C. (1968). Invincible Louisa: The story of the author of little women. Boston: Little, Brown.

Additional Book Review:

Cornelia Meigs wrote “Invincible Louisa” in 1933 and it really is a product of its times. I found the prose a little too childish for my tastes even though I usually really like children’s books. The atmosphere is very sunny even though Louisa May Alcott lived in poverty for much of her life. Anyone who enjoyed “Little Women” would like reading of the family who served as Alcott’s inspiration. The Alcott’s were a close-knit, loving family who enjoyed life to the fullest even though they didn’t live in the best of circumstances. Louisa’ father, Bronson, experimented with education techniques, many of which are still in use today, and transcendentalism. For a couple of years, the family lived in a sort of commune which failed in the end. Louisa associated with such exalted literary figures as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. It’s obvious from reading this biography how much Jo is modeled after her creator and her efforts in trying to care for her family through her writing. There were several things I learned by reading this book:
1. The Alcott’s lived for two years in the Wayside, Hawthorne’s future home, before buying the Orchard house, where they lived for many years. Louisa hated this house because they were in the process of renovating it before moving in when her sister, Elizabeth, died.
2. Louisa served as an army nurse for one month before contracting typhoid fever which forced her to return home and from which she never fully recovered.
3. Louisa died at the age of 56 just two days after her father. She outlived her mother and father, two sisters and sister, Anna’s, husband.
4. When her youngest sister died a month after giving birth to Louisa’s namesake, Lulu was sent to be raised by her aunt. Louisa also adopted Anna’s youngest son so that he could inherit all the copyrights to her books.
Louisa May Alcott was a fascinating person and Meigs obviously admired her a great deal. Much of the content of the book was garnered from journals which added greatly to the details, but, since this is a small book, much had to have been left out. I would be interested in reading a more adult biography. Maybe David McCullough could tackle this.
Framed. (2007, July 30). Book Review of Invincible Louisa. Retrieved from http://framed2007bookreviews.blogspot.com/2007/11/invincible-louisa-by-cornelia-meigs.html