Max, Emma, Patty and I regularly listen to audiobooks in the car.  There are amazing EQ lessons in these stories, and I find that listening to them creates a strong emotional connection — plus it’s a great way to keep the peace on long drives!

On the plane yesterday, listened to the end of Pam Munoz Ryan’s book, Esperanza Rising, a lovely story of a family and a young woman learning, “never be afraid to start over.”  Esperanza is a privileged child growing up in a wealthy family on El Rancho de las Rosas in Mexico.  Her father is killed, and for a variety of reasons she and her mother escape to the Central Valley in California where they live in a farmworker’s camp during the Depression.  Amidst threats of strikes, illness, loss, fear, and scarcity, Esperanza’s hands harden, but her heart softens.  She learns empathy and her optimism is fueled by connectedness to family, the land, and community.

As the story ended, I was sobbing, touched by the hope and strength in these women, their courage, compassion, and openness to life.  It’s a beautifully woven tale, a dark and serious time in our history entwined with shining threads of love and resilience.

The narrator, Trini Alvarado, did a beautiful job — I’m sure the book is lovely in print as well — but I highly recommend listening to it.

For teachers, Esperanza Rising would be ideal for discussions of the emotional intelligence competencies of Exercise Optimism and Increase Empathy, as well as for themes of migration, power, and, of course for California history.  The fact that the story is based on the author’s grandmother’s real life makes it even richer.

Based on Emma & Max’s reactions, I’d say this is great from ages about 7 and up.

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