The House on Mango Street (paperback)
by Sandra Cisneros
AR Level 4.5, 3 points
The House on Mango Street tells about life in Chicago in a neighborhood with Chicanos and Puerto Ricans. Esperanza Cordero lives with her parents and 3 siblings in a home that is not her dream home. Their house on Mango Street is where Esperanza grows up in her early teen years, and she describes her interactions with her reputable and less reputable neighbors through vignettes. It is a very, very well-written novella that is (and should be) required reading in school.
What I liked about this book was a few things… first, it gave a clear picture of what life was like in their neighborhood. She observed different kinds of people- poor and less poor, troublemakers and well-raised, people with hopes and dreams (like her own) and those who are hopeless, as well as the sexual tension and awkwardness girls often feel in their early teens. Gender roles are clear to Esperanza. I also liked the style of writing. If you want a novel to use as a mentor text for metaphor, this is it. The description comes straight from the point of view of a teenage girl, but she is observant and innocent in many of her observations, but as a mature reader, we can interpret and infer things that may have gone over Esperanza’s head, or things she took as fact but didn’t understand. I appreciate Cisneros’s style of writing.
What I didn’t like about this book was the hopelessness so many people in Esperanza’s neighborhood felt. She was in many dangerous situations that compromised her innocence, and that was heartbreaking, because I know it is also reality for many of my students growing up in a predominantly poor, Latino neighborhood where they grow up seeing things far too early. It didn’t make me not like the book, but it gave me that uncomfortable feeling, and it is probably a sign that it was a really good book, because it drew on my emotions.
I knew about this book, because the first chapter was part of the intro to Junior Great Books. I wouldn’t recommend a middle school or younger student reading the entire thing due to some situations that are sexual in nature. The book was given to my husband by a retired English teacher at his school, so of course I had to read it, being the bibliophile that I am.
Book 26 of 40 (year 2)