Book Review: Echo

E992E685-1FAF-4FE0-B545-00BE6534793ATitle: Echo
Author: Pam Munoz Ryan
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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.

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Book Review: I Survived the Eruption of Mount St. Helens, 1980

IMG_0860Title: I Survived the Eruption of Mount St. Helens, 1980
Author: Lauren Tarshis
Publisher: Scholatic
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 / 5

From Scholastic: It was one the most beautiful mountains in America, Mt. St. Helens, in Washington State. But what many didn’t know was that this peaceful mountain had an explosive past. For more than a century, it had been quiet. But below ground, pressure had been building, and soon, Kaboom! Mt. St. Helens would erupt with terrifying fury. Eleven-year-old Sally Tanner knew the mountain well, and like many, she never imagined that this serene wilderness could turn deadly. But on May 10th, 1980, Sally finds herself in the middle of the deadliest volcanic eruption in U.S. history. Trapped on the mountain, she must escape clouds of poisonous gas, boiling rivers, and landslides of rock, glacial ice, and white-hot debris. The newest book in the I Survived series will take readers into one of the most dramatic events in recent U.S. history where they will meet one of nature’s most devastating forces.

My Review: I’m drawn to the I Survived series because I like learning about real life natural disasters and I want my kids to learn about these important events in a context that’s fun and engaging.

There are two reasons I grabbed this book: First, I was six years old when Mount St. Helens erupted and fascinated by this enormous and catastrophic event. Second, this book is the only one in the series that features a girl as the main character and on the book cover, and as a mother of three girls this is pretty empowering.

This story covers the fast-paced action of events leading up to and after the eruption of Mount St. Helens and also treasures that are near and dear to us. Jessie loses the camera her late father left her in the eruption. I didn’t quite understand the reason for adding the part about the witch in the forest because it didn’t lend to the story.

I bought this book for my daughters and I listened to the audiobook for this review and we all enjoyed it.