This middle-grade novel is based on the life of the author's grandmother. Thirteen-year-old Esperanza is a rich girl living in Mexico when her father is murdered. She is forced to flee to California with her mother and work as a farm laborer to support herself and her mother.
This book is set during the Great Depression, but the themes are still relevant today. It confronts the issues of racism, classism, discrimination, immigration, labor strikes, and economic problems. It shows the importance of family and of being kind to people who are different from you.
The characters are well-developed, and the setting is very vivid. Nothing in the book is oversimplified or "dumbed down" for children. I like the Spanish words that are used in dialogue and as the chapter titles. If you don't know Spanish, all of them are translated for you. There are a lot of historical details, but I would have liked the book even more if it had included more historical details.
I did have a hard time getting interested in the story. I didn't think that Esperanza and her family were very relatable in the beginning of the book. The characters become more relatable as the story progresses.
This is a quick read for adults and an educational read for children. It would be great as part of a social studies curriculum. There is a lot of material in it for parents and teachers to talk about with their students.