Author: Pam Munoz Ryan
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
From Scholastic: Lost and alone in the forbidden Black 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 become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives, binding them by an invisible thread of destiny. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. How their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo will resound in your heart long after the last note has been struck.
Richly imagined and structurally innovative, Echo pushes the boundaries of form and shows us what is possible in how we tell stories.
My Review: Echo opens up as a fairytale in the Black Forest, Germany. Otto makes the acquaintance of three sisters who tell him a story of a prophecy and give him a harmonica marked with an M.
First we meet Friedrich, a boy growing up in Nazi Germany with a penchant for music he dreams of being an orchestra conductor. Born with a large birthmark on his face, Friedrich knows he will never see his dream come true under Hitler’s superior race.
Next we meet Mike in Depression-era Pennsylvania. He and his younger brother, Frankie live in an orphanage for hopeless and destitute children. Life for the boys does a 180-degree turn when wealthy Mrs. Sturbridge adopts them but she’s not interested in mothering them and soon the brothers are destined to be split up and sent away. Mike works a deal with Mrs. Sturbridge to ensure Frankie stays with her.
Finally we are transported to Southern California where Ivy Lopez is the daughter of immigrant migrant workers. Post-Pearl Harbour, the farm Ivy’s parents run belongs to a Japanese-American couple, the Yamamotos, who are in an internment camp. The government grows suspicious of the Yamamotos and Ivy’s family gets caught in the crosshairs trying to protect them.
I listened to the audiobook, which I highly recommend because of the beautiful and powerful harmonica interlude between chapters.
Echo’s narrative is beautifully woven spanning time and place, family hardships and the harmonica tying three children together. This book should be required reading for all middle grade children and adults alike.