Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Sympathetic; Encouraging; Admiring
Pam Muñoz Ryan really loves Esperanza. How can we tell? Well, she's kind of like a too-nice friend: she's never critical or harsh, even when Esperanza acts like a spoiled brat. Instead, she tries to explain why Esperanza is acting that way.
Let's take a look at an example. When Esperanza refuses to share her doll with a little peasant girl, we know she's being selfish. But instead of judging her, the author lets us know what Esperanza is feeling: anger (at being reprimanded by Mama), a little bit of guilt, and shame:
Esperanza tried not to look back at the little girl but she couldn't help it. She wished she could tell the little girl's mother that she had always given her old toys to the orphanage, but that this doll was special. Besides, the child would have soiled it with her hands. (5)
Yikes, we're pretty embarrassed for Esperanza. But the author doesn't judge. She lets Esperanza's own feelings of shame and embarrassment speak for themselves. The lack of authorial judgment makes us feel like Pam Muñoz Ryan is really rooting for Esperanza.
On top of just rooting for her, our author really admires her leading lady. When Esperanza learns to work hard, give generously, and speak out against injustice, she gets her deserved props from Muñoz Ryan. Check out the words she puts in Esperanza's mouth as she gives her doll to Isabel:
Esperanza stroked Isabel's hair. "Do you think my papa would want her buried inside a valise all this time with no one playing with her? Look at her. She must be lonely. She is even getting dusty! And look at me. I am much too old for dolls. People would make fun of me if I carried her around and you know how I hate it when people laugh at me. Isabel, you would be doing me and my papa a favor if you would love her." (13.74)
Pretty tactful, right? Instead of making it seem like a big sacrifice on her part, Esperanza convinces Isabel that she'll actually be doing her a favor by taking the beautiful present. That takes a lot of maturity, we'd say.
Clearly Pam Muñoz Ryan wants to make Esperanza look like a big-time good guy. It makes sense, since, as it turns out, the author really is writing about someone she loves—her grandmother.