Echo is an intriguing novel that cleverly weaves five stories, spanning centuries and miles, together to make a compelling and interesting read. The common thread in the stories is a simple instrument, the harmonica, as well as love for music. Pam Munoz Ryan masterfully ties the stories together, incorporating intrigue and wonder that keeps the reader turning pages, all the while approaching the difficult subjects that came in the 1940’s in an age appropriate way. This truly has been one of the more captivating novels I’ve read for this age group in a long while, as it brings in characters that invoke compassion, as well as awe, but also approaches the world events without glossing over them and in a way that does not weigh the novel down. In the end, the beauty of the ‘music’–in whatever form, and the love for what is important in life– namely family, triumphs over the darker hours of that era.
Throughout the novel the reader follows a harmonica as it travels from fairy tale to Germany, to Philadelphia, to California, and then back to New York. At each stop it touches the life (and sometimes lives) of those who have musical talent, and who can therefore, pull the magic of the music from the harmonica itself, all the while pulling them all in one common direction to end up at the same destination. This journey is one of trials, difficulties, sadness, and loss, but also of redemption, love, trust, and hope, ending with the joy that music and achieving one’s goals and passion can bring.
This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Scholastic
Violence/Gore: Character gets lost in the woods and imagines the dangers of wild animals and witches; fairy tale told where king orders death of 3 babies; account of bullying which results in rocks being thrown, cuts on face and broken bone; account of ransacked apartment; 2 accounts of the atrocities of Nazi’s (concentration camps and forced surgeries); boy bites man; secondhand account of children dying because of neglect; character accused of shoplifting, is man-handled and detained; secondhand account of child dying; property vandalized and racial slurs written on door; description of man coming out of concentration camp with implications of bad things having happened to him but nothing specific mentioned; secondhand account of character’s son dying in war; account of soldier’s injuries from war; account of soldier being shot at in war.
Mature Subject Matter:
Death of parents, bullying, Nazism/concentration camps, orphans/foster care/orphanages, runaway children, death of children, divorce, war, detainment of Japanese Americans, racial segregation.
Alcohol / Drug Use: