abel gives Esperanza some last minute advice for taking care of the Pepe and Lupe as she boards the bus for her first day of school. For the first time, Esperanza is responsible for taking care of the babies as well as preparing dinner for everyone who is working during the day. Esperanza starts making dinner and feeds the babies plums, which makes them happy.
Meanwhile, the harvest season for the grapes is coming to a close. All of the adults must work seven days a week in order to gather the last of the grapes before the autumn rains. Esperanza starts spending more time with her neighbors Irene and Melina, who is appears young and naive but is actually a mature woman who takes care of her husband and child.
The dust storm is dangerous
One afternoon, when the men are working in the fields and the women are working in the shed, a dust storm descends on the valley. Melina and Irene instruct Esperanza to get inside and stay away from the windows. Esperanza worries about her family and friends as the dust seeps into their cabin.
Isabel returns from school unscathed, frantic about her kitten, Chiquita. Luckily, Esperanza has brought Chiquita inside to keep her safe from the dust storm. The women return shortly thereafter - they only had a few crates as shelter from the whirling dust. The men return moments later, caked in dirt.
When everyone is clean again, Alfonso explains that the dust storm has derailed the plans for a strike. Esperanza knows that no one in her immediate circle is going to strike because they need the money. She is glad when everyone returns to work the following day, as if the storm had never happened.
A month after the dust storm, Esperanza notices that Mamalooks pale and encourages her to lie down. Her mother, tired and worn down, breaks out into a fever. A young doctor explains that Mama has contracted Valley Fever, a condition that results from dust spores growing in the lungs. Esperanza is rocked by the news that Mama will take six months to recover - and she may not even live that long.