Author Bio Pam Munoz Ryan was born on December 11, 1951. She was raised in Bakersfield, California. She is of Mexican, Spanish, Basque, Italian, and Oklahomian heritage. She was raised surrounded by a large extended family. Ryan often spent time with her grandmothers eating traditional Mexican fare with one and American cuisine with the other. Pam’s love of reading came from spending long hot summers indoors at the local library. There she felt she could escape into new worlds and live out the lives of the characters she read about by using her imagination. Pam attended college and became a bilingual teacher. She left her teaching job to raise her family. When going back to school to obtain a Master’s degree, a professor suggested she consider writing professionally . She began her writing career by helping a friend with an adult manuscript. This led her to eventually write her own children’s manuscript. Her first children’s book is called One Hundred is a Family. Today Pam continues to write full-time. When she is not writing, she enjoys traveling, reading, going to the movies, getting together with family, and horse-back riding.
The following video is an interview of Pam Munoz Ryan from Reading Rockets .
In addition to the above interview, another interview of Pam Munoz Ryan can be find at Scholastic Video .
Esperanza Rising Esperanza Ortega was a privileged young Mexican girl growing up on her family’s ranch and vineyard in Aguascalientes, Mexico in the early 1920’s. The day before Esperanza’s thirteenth birthday, her father was murdered by bandits. Esperanza’s corrupt uncles became owners of the ranch because women could not own land. The uncles threatened to destroy all that her father had worked so hard to establish unless Ramona, Esperanza’s beautiful mother, agrees to marry Tia Luis. Tia Luis is a powerful and corrupt banker and the step-brother of Esperanza’s father. When Esperanza’s mother refuses to marry Tio Luis, the house, vineyards, and Papa’s beloved rose garden are set on fire. Esperanza and her mother escape to the train station by riding in a secret compartment of a wagon that holds fruit. The train takes them to America where they were hopeful to begin a new life. Helping them and providing a pillar of strength are Hortensia, Alfonso, and Miguel, former servants of the Ortega family. Upon their arrival in America, Esperanza is confronted with a life that is vastly different from the one she lived in Aguascalientes. She is no longer a privileged child and she and her mother become migrant farm workers. When her mother becomes ill, Esperanza works to help pay for her mother’s medical bills and to bring Abuelita, her grandmother, to be with them in California. Esperanza faces many trials and tribulations but never loses faith as she learns to rise and embrace the new life she has been given.
Esperanza Rising Views Relative to the Author: Pam Munoz Ryan wrote the character of Esperanza based loosely on her grandmother. The story parallels her grandmother’s immigration to the United States. Ryan also interviewed individuals that lived in the same migration camp as her grandmother to get a feel for what life was like. Ryan also conducted research of the Mexican migration camps at the local history room of the Beale Library in Bakersfield, California. Her favorite part of the story is when Esperanza gave her beloved doll, the last gift from her father before his death, to her camp-mate Isabel. The author feels that this was a turning point for Esperanza indicating she was leaving the old behind and embracing her new life. Ryan chose not to label the chapters in a traditional method. Instead of labeling the chapters as Chapter One, Chapter Two, etc., Ryan names the chapters after fruits and vegetables. Each chapter coincides with a particular growing and/or picking season in Mexico and California.
Esperanza Rising Picture of Mrs. Ryan’s grandmother, Esperanza Picture of Mrs. Ryan’s grandparents, Jesus and Esperanza (Ortega) Munoz. The character of Miguel was based loosely on Jesus.
Esperanza Rising My Response: Esperanza Rising is a heartbreaking yet inspirational story. I enjoyed how the author followed Esperanza’s journey throughout the story by naming the chapters after the growing seasons. I also feel as though I learned a lot of historical information regarding Mexican immigrants through the eyes of Esperanza and those that surrounded her. One of my favorite parts of the book was when Miguel and his father had planted the small rose garden from Papa’s seeds. This was one of the things Papa loved so dearly in Mexico and a way for Esperanza to connect with him even though he was no longer with them. The character of Esperanza proves to be an excellent role model for young readers. She is strong and rises to the challenges around her with the love for her family and hope for a brighter future.
Excellence in a Work of Fiction Award 2001 Children's Literature Council of Southern California
2001 Judy Goddard/Libraries Limited Arizona Young Adult Author Award
Jane Addams Children's Book Award, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
Paint the Wind Paint the wind is a beautiful story based around the relationship of a girl, Maya, and a wild ‘ghost’ horse, Artesmia. Maya’s parents were killed in a car accident when she was a little girl of just four years old. She was sent to live with her very strict and eccentric grandmother in California. Grandmother blamed Maya’s mom for the death of her beloved son. Maya lived an extremely sheltered and protected life. She was never allowed to play outdoors or leave the house unless it was to go to school. The only thing Maya had to remember her mother by was a box of plastic horses. When Maya’s grandmother died suddenly of a stroke, Maya is sent to live with her mother’s family in Wyoming. In Wyoming, she encounters a completely different life-style and learns of the love her mother had for horses. She learns to love and be loved by her Grandpa, Aunt Vi, great uncle Fig, and cousin Payton. While spending the summer at Sweetwater, the summer ranch by the river, she learns to ride and take care of horses. While trying to save Artesmia from being captured by wranglers, she encounters a disaster that could have killed her. The beautiful Artesmia comes to her rescue and the two share a special bond. Maya later comes to realize that to love Artesmia, as her mother once did, she must let her return to the wild.
Paint the Wind Views Relative to the Author: As a young girl, Ryan loved Marguerite Henry’s King of the Wind and was in awe of the collection of Breyer horses that her friends had. In preparation for writing this book, Ryan took hundreds of horse-back riding lessons with a top-notch trainer and spent eight days camping in a Teepee. The settings described in the book are ones the author herself had experienced while riding. My Response: In addition to just enjoying the story as it interweaved the lives of Maya and Artemisia, I enjoyed learning information about horses. This is a great horse story for readers of all ages. The story is told in an alternating narrative of the two main characters, Maya and Artemisia. While tragic at times, I felt that this story was inspirational and left me feeling exhilarated and anxious to continue reading to find out what would happen next. I also found that I was able to hear the voice of the horses and draw compassion for Artemisia, a wild paint mare, as she dealt with some very human issues such as the loss of a foal. The setting came to life with the vivid descriptions of the Sweetwater area in Wyoming.
Students learn about wild horse conservation efforts and what can be
done to preserve this part of American heritage.
Through-out the story, the wild horse pack is continually running from being captured by preying animals and humans. If captured by horse wranglers, the horses would often be auctioned off and broke to become work horses. Horses that were not adopted would be sold to dog food companies for meat.
Return to Freedom is an organization dedicated to preserving the freedom of wild horses.
Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center is dedicated to preserving the Pryor Mountain mustangs of Wyoming and teaching about this horses Spanish roots.
The Bureau of Land Management is an agency that removes wild horses and places them into adoption. This agency claims to not sell the horses to slaughterhouses.
The Cloud Foundation is dedicated to preserving wild horses on public lands and protecting the wild herds in the Arrowhead Mountains of Montana.
Becoming Naomi Leon Becoming Naomi Leon is a story about a girl named Naomi Soledad Leon Outlaw. In addition to making lists of ‘Splendid Words’ and ‘Things I Am Good At’, Naomi has a talent for carving soap into animal figures. Naomi and her brother, Owen, live with their great-grandmother, Gram, in a small trailer. The trailer is nested in what was once an avocado farm. Naomi’s mother is an alcoholic and gave up parental rights to Naomi and Owen, but suddenly reappears after being gone for seven years. The mother, Skyla (Terry), comes back into their life with an ulterior motive. Skyla focuses all her attention on Naomi and treats Owen, who has a physical handicap, as an outsider. Naomi soon learns that Skyla has returned to take her from Gram in the attempt to turn her into a babysitter and as a means of gaining financial aid from the state. Gram concocts a plan to officially adopt the children, but must first find Naomi and Owens's father in a small village in Mexico. Gram, with the help of her dear friends and neighbors, loads up the trailer and sets off with the children to Mexico. While in Mexico, Naomi and Owen become invested in Mexican culture. Naomi realizes that without the authorization of a father she barely remembers, she may be sent to live with her mom. While living in Mexico, Naomi learns about her Mexican heritage. It is here that she learns she has inherited her soap carving talent from her father.
Becoming Naomi Leon Views Relative to Author: Pam Munoz Ryan was inspired to write Becoming Naomi Leon after reading a one sentence about Oaxacan wood carving. She then went to the village of Oaxaca City, Mexico, and attended the radish carving festival called La Noche de los Rabanos . Ryan uses animal metaphors, such as ‘A Drey of Squirrels’, to create the chapter labels. My Response: This is another great story by Ryan that weaves factual information into a heart-warming story. I found it interesting to learn about the different celebrations and festivals the occur in Mexico. I was instantly suspicious of Skyla, Naomi’s mother, when she reappeared out of nowhere after seven years. I was happy to see that Naomi and her grandmother were very cautious and skeptical yet ready to open their hearts to Skyla. I also liked the way Ryan included the character of Owen into the story. Even though Owen suffered obvious physical deformities, he was a bright and vivacious child. It was nice to see how much Naomi cared for her brother. My favorite part was when Naomi carved the beautiful lion figure and helped her friends win the radish carving award. Naomi is a strong role model and shows that perseverance and love of family and friends can overcome even the worst of situations.