Echo 51Onv891e1L__SX336_BO1,204,203,200_Echo

Pam Munoz Ryan, Author

Scholastic Press, Fiction, Feb. 24, 2015

Winner of the 2016 Newbery Honor

Suitable for Ages: 10-14

Themes: Harmonica, Music, Destiny, Nazi Germany, Pennsylvania orphans, Mexican-Americans, WW II, Japanese-Americans, Family relationship

Opening: “FIFTY YEARS BEFORE THE WAR TO END ALL wars, a boy played hide-and-seek with his friends in a pear orchard bordered by a dark forest.”

Synopsis: Otto runs into the forbidden forest to hide from his friends. He becomes lost and is rescued by three sisters who are imprisoned in a circle of trees by a witch’s spell. The sisters are musical and they each impart a different tune into Otto’s harmonica. He promises to help free them by carrying their harmony out into the world and passing the harmonica along to other musicians who will add their musical gift. Decades later, the harmonica graces the lives of three children who are living in horrific situations: Friedrich, who has a birthmark and doesn’t fit in 1933 Nazi Germany; Mike and his little brother Frankie, who are finding a way to survive a deplorable orphanage during the depression in Pennsylvania; and Ivy, a Mexican-American girl in California, whose brother is a soldier and her family is caring for a farm left by a Japanese family who is sent to an internment camp.

Each child is already musically talented and they become linked together as destiny places Otto’s  harmonica into their hands. They each recognize that the harmonica is powerful and like no other instrument they’ve heard before. Playing it brings each of them courage, hope and joy during dire times. The thread that binds them together comes together in a magnificent ending.

Why I like this book:

  • Pam Munoz Ryan literally sweeps me off my feet with her thrilling and brilliant storytelling.  Her writing is polished, her narrative inspires one to believe in the power of music to heal and change lives, and her plot is complex.
  • Ryan thinks outside the box as she writes her masterpiece, Echo. Although there is an element of fantasy in Echo, I am delighted that the book is a great work of historical fiction that will engage many teens. It focuses on Hitler’s Nazi Germany, the Great Depression, Mexican-American itinerate farmers, World War II, and the anti-Japanese sentiment in America.
  • The author led me to care about four very different and memorable characters in a very human way. The book begins and ends with a fairy tale with Otto’s encounter with three mysterious sisters. The novel is told in three parts, each devoted to Friedrich, Mike and Ivy’s stories. The children face dire challenges as they struggle to keep their families together: rescuing a father from prison, protecting a brother in an orphanage, and dealing with poverty, discrimination and keeping a family together. The author builds tension and momentum by leaving their stories unfinished, until the story comes full circle.
  • I am a musician, so the idea of a harmonica infused with the melodious spirits of the three sisters  captivated me and I wondered how it would play out in the story. Each of the three children add their own energy and wisdom to the harmonica as they play it and pass it along. The thread that ties their destiny together is revealed at the end in a resounding crescendo that is spellbinding and beautiful. This novel captures my heart and I will read it again.

Pam Munoz Ryan is the author of over thirty books. Her most recent novels include the award-winning The Dreamer and Esperanza Rising. She is the recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Human and Civil Rights Award and the Virginia Hamilton Literary Award for multicultural literature. You may visit Ryan at her website.

Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

48 thoughts on “Echo

  1. After reading this review, Echo has shot to the top of my “must read” list. Snapshots of three children facing such terrible life situations with music as a salve for each sounds amazing. No wonder it’s a Newbury Honor book. Thanks so much for reviewing it!


  2. I’ve had this one on my list of books to read for some time. After reading your review it’s evident the story shouldn’t stay there any longer. So many good plot lines weaving there way for readers. Thanks for the nudge.


  3. This sounds like a powerful book. I like the idea that real historic events are part of the story. Must look out for this one. A great review Pat.


    • I am so glad I reviewed this book. I thought for sure, many had read this beautiful story. I am a classically trained pianist and nearly majored in music in college, but chose journalism. I love all music, especially opera. One of the characters in the story is a pianist and plays the harmonica.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. May I suggest the audiobook version as well? I listened to 3/4 of it before it was ‘snatched’ back by the library, but I’ve got it on hold again to hear the rest of it. Not only is the text read beautifully, but there are musical interludes between critical phrases and musical moments in the story. It is simply beautiful!


    • Yes, I saw that our library has the audiobook. I’m trying to get a copy before I go on vacation. Thank you for sharing more about the audio book. I’m glad you love the story too! Wait until the ending!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I just came across this somewhere, and have been wondering about it! Thanks so much for filling in the details!


  6. I literally could not put this book down. It is so beautifully written and the story line carries you along to the very end. “Echo” made me want to read much from Ms. Muñoz.


  7. Time for me to catch up on a few blogs I’ve been neglecting. This is a great pick. An author I really enjoy and a story that sounds right up my alley. I plan to add a few titles to my TBR as I look over your recent posts, Pat! 🙂


    • When I reviewed Echo, I was afraid many people had read the book. But, was surprised. It is my favorite MG novel right now. I loved how brilliant the writing. And, even though it appears long, it is a quick read.


  8. Pingback: Lit She Loves, Jan Ackerson: The Giver - Lit I Love

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s