Marshmallow reviews Paint the Wind by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Today Marshmallow reviews Paint the Wind, a 2007 novel by Pam Muñoz Ryan.

Marshmallow reviews Paint the Wind by Pam Muñoz Ryan.
Marshmallow reviews Paint the Wind by Pam Muñoz Ryan.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about horses and family, then this might be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with spoilers): Maya has been living in Southern California with her paternal grandmother Agnes Menetti since her parents’ death. Maya doesn’t remember too much about her parents, especially her mother Ellie. But she does know that her grandmother hated her mother and that she blamed her for the death of Maya’s dad. Agnes has destroyed everything about Ellie, cutting her out of pictures and throwing away her belongings. The only thing in the house remaining which belonged to Ellie are her toy horses, and only because Maya has kept them a secret.

Maya’s grandmother Agnes likes to control everything: people, things, lives. For example she has never had a housekeeper for very long because she’s always been dissatisfied; she believes everything in the house must be kept a certain way and it is hard for people to live up to her expectations. Of course it’s not always the housekeepers’ fault. Maya seems to have a habit of sabotaging the housekeepers’ jobs. For example one time Maya put a blue sweater in the white laundry to get one of the housekeepers fired.

Maya also has a habit of lying. When the new housekeeper discovers her playing with the toy horses, she lies about how her parents died and why she’s hiding the horses. But the housekeeper tells the grandmother anyways. So Maya sabotages her job, too. After that housekeeper is fired and a new one is hired, Agnes starts acting differently and showing signs of memory loss. Eventually, one morning, she collapses into her breakfast, and soon we learn that she has passed away from a stroke.

Afterwards, Maya is sent off to live with her mother’s family. Her mother‘s family lives in the open fields in Wyoming and rides horses. Maya has never met these people before except for when she was a baby and so she’s very nervous. Living with her new family will lead to some changes. She will have to adapt to survive.

A second thread of the book develops around a wild horse named Artemisia. Several chapters, including the first one, have the reader follow Artemisia and the other mustangs as they go through their lives in the wilderness of Wyoming.

As you can expect, the two storylines eventually do merge together and we see Maya and Artemisia forge a strong bond. But not all is fun and games. There is serious trouble ahead.

Marshmallow is reading Paint the Wind by Pam Muñoz Ryan.
Marshmallow is reading Paint the Wind by Pam Muñoz Ryan.

Marshmallow’s Review: I think that Paint the Wind is a neat book. The plot line is very intriguing and the whole book is overall very informative. I learned a lot of new things about horses which I didn’t know before. I can see how this would be a great book for bunnies who love horses. I am not especially interested in horses, not more than any other four-legged creature, but I too found the book compelling.

I also found the characters interesting and unique. Though Maya starts out as a lying and inconsiderate person, the book does show us how she transforms into a person who cares about people and living creatures other than herself.

I found the repeated theme about ghost horses interesting: Maya remembers a story about them told by her mom Ellie, and this comes up a few times throughout the book. However I was a little confused about the ending. I wanted to know more about the ghost horses.

The author Pam Muñoz Ryan also wrote Esperanza Rising, which I recently reviewed. The two books have a similar writing style, and they both involve a young girl being forced to leave the life she was used to, though the plots and the characters are very different. I do have to admit that I found Esperanza Rising a lot more touching.

Marshmallow’s rating: 90%.

Marshmallow rates Paint the Wind by Pam Muñoz Ryan 90%.
Marshmallow rates Paint the Wind by Pam Muñoz Ryan 90%.

Marshmallow reviews Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Marshmallow read Esperanza Rising in school a couple years ago. She recently read this 2000 novel by Pam Muñoz Ryan again and wanted to review it today for the book bunnies blog.

Marshmallow reviews Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan.
Marshmallow reviews Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about family and bravery, then this might be the book for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): In Mexico, Esperanza Ortega has lived in luxury all her life. Her father is the owner of El Rancho de los Rosas (The Ranch of Roses). She lives in a large house with servants and maids. But all of that changes when her father is killed by bandits.

During this time (early 1930s), Mexico is split between the rich and the poor. As Esperanza tells Miguel, a boy whose father works on their ranch and who Esperanza is good friends with, she and Miguel are on two sides of an uncrossable river. (At the time, Esperanza doesn’t realize how insensitive that is to say to him.)

Esperanza’s father is generous to his workers, however, the bandits don’t care. They attack when he, Miguel, and Miguel’s father are repairing a fence. After Esperanza’s father dies, his stepbrothers immediately start to try to pressure Esperanza and her mother. Her mother, Ramona, is influential and popular. Ezperanza’s half-uncles try to pressure Ramona into marrying the older uncle. If she marries him, he could win any election he wants to, which is his intention. Esperanza’s mother naturally turns him down, and he threatens her and tells her she will regret that decision. 

Later, Esperanza’s house is burned down in a fire. (We are to assume the fire was caused by her uncles.) Abuelita, Esperanza’s grandmother who lives with them, is injured while escaping the fire. The older uncle proposes marriage again, and Esperanza’s mother accepts. Secretly, Esperanza’s mother and Miguel’s parents plan to flee Mexico and go to America to find work with Miguel’s relatives. Esperanza, her mother, Miguel, and his parents secretly leave Mexico. However, they are forced to leave Abuelita behind because she is unable to come with them given her injury. Abuelita plans to join them in America when she is better, using the money in her bank account. Unfortunately, the bank is owned by Esperanza’s uncles who are likely to try to prevent her from accessing her money. 

In America, it is the Great Depression. Esperanza and her mother have to adjust to not living in luxury. They settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. However, Esperanza is not at all accustomed to the conditions. She doesn’t know how to wash clothes, sweep floors, or even bathe herself. She has to face financial difficulties, harsh labor, dust storms, and spiteful people. Will Esperanza be able to take all of this?

(If you don’t mind more spoilers, the Wikipedia article for the book explains a lot more of the plot. It also talks a bit more about the historical background of the story.)

Marshmallow is reading Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan.
Marshmallow is reading Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan.

Marshmallow’s Review: Esperanza Rising is a great book. It is so touching and Esperanza is such a realistic character, with all her flaws, that I really enjoyed reading it again after having read it in school two years ago.

The author did an amazing job of making the reader feel really sympathetic to Esperanza and her predicament. The author also did a great job of describing the places Esperanza sees. The descriptions in the book of the characters, places, and things are vivid and poetic.

I also liked the character development in Esperanza. I would give more descriptions about how she changed and what made her change, but that would spoil too much of the book. Suffice it to say, Esperanza changes for the better and it is interesting to see the difference in her from the beginning to later in the books.

I think that the author did a good job of making the book seem very real to the reader. I believe that some of the events in the book were very realistic. In fact, in the back of the book, the author, Pam Muñoz Ryan, writes that the book is based on her grandmother’s life. Her grandmother, Esperanza Ortega, suffered through most of the same events. Learning this made this book even more impactful and touching for me.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 100%. 

Marshmallow rates Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan 100%.
Marshmallow rates Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan 100%.