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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

Music, magic, and a real-life miracle meld in this genre-defying masterpiece from storytelling maestro Pam Muñoz Ryan. Lost and alone in a forbidden forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica. Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each, in turn, become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. And ultimately, pulled by the invisible thread of destiny, their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo. Richly imagined and masterfully crafted, ECHO pushes the boundaries of genre and form, and shows us what is possible in how we tell stories. The result is an impassioned, uplifting, and virtuosic tour de force that will resound in your heart long after the last note has been struck.…


by Pam Munoz Ryan

Overall Book Review:

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

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  None 

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. 

Sex/Nudity:  None

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:


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About the Reviewer

I remember as a young girl sneaking out of my bedroom to read by the hall light my parents left on, just so I could finish an exciting book. I’ve always loved books and reading is somewhat of a passion for me–something I’m passing on to my kids. I have four children and I have a hard time making them turn out the light when they say, “But I just got to the good part”.