Ethnic Smorgasbord

When many people are asked about their childhood, they can usually come up with one word to describe it. When Pam Munoz Ryan was asked, she said her childhood was noisy. She is the oldest of three girls. That could be noisy, but many people have three or more children in their family. Pam's was noisy because she grew up living near many aunts and uncles. She is also the oldest of twenty-three cousins. They often had big family gatherings at her grandmother's house. These family experiences and others inspired many of Pam's stories.

Pam Munoz Ryan was born on December 25, 1951. She was born in California. Half of her family was from Mexico. The other half was from Oklahoma. Having a big family meant always having family around. One weekend she would go to one grandmother's house. She would eat fried chicken and black-eyes peas. The next weekend she would go to her other grandmother's house. She would have enchiladas and rice and beans. Her ethnic background includes Spanish, Mexican, Italian, and American. She called it an ethnic smorgasbord.

When Pam was in fifth grade her family moved across town. She did not know anyone. She felt like she did not fit in. She thought she was too tall. She thought her feet were too big, and her clothes were not right. She met a girl, and they became friends. Every Tuesday afternoon her friend's mother would take them to the library. Pam loved the library. California summers were very hot. Pam's house did not have air conditioning. The library did. She also loved the books. She found that she could escape into them.

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