Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

Scholastic Press (February 24, 2015) 592 pages


Music, magic, and a real-life miracle meld in this genre-defying masterpiece from storytelling maestro Pam Muñoz Ryan.

Lost and alone 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.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Thoughts:

This is a beautiful book, but I suspect it will be more of a hit with parents, as opposed to its target age group. It feels more like a "required reading" sort of book. I was under the impression that there would be more of a fantasy focus within the story, but the fantasy element ended up being *very* mild. There was a bit of fantasy at the beginning and a bit at the ending, but this was really more of a historical novel, with a strong focus on music. More specifically in the music realm was the focus on a particular harmonica that passes into the hands of different children.

Echo follows the lives of 7 people in various decades, along with their families. The story starts out with young Otto, as he meets 3 sisters, Eins, Zwei, and Drei, and learns their fairy tale story. This is the beginning of the harmonica's journey. Along the way, we meet Friedrich in 1933 Germany, as he struggles with the world Hitler is trying to create, Mike in 1935 Pennsylvania, as he fights to keep him and his brother, Frankie , together, and Ivy Maria in 1942 California, as she struggles with the effects of the war and the prejudices towards the Japanese and Mexican Americans.

Echo is broken up into parts. The beginning is where Otto and the sisters are introduced, but they don't get a large part of the book. Part one is given to Friedrich, part two is given to Mike, part three is given to Maria, and part four ties up all the loose strings in 1951 New York. Each child's story is not given an ending until part four. That means it's almost like starting a whole new book before getting to have an ending for the first one. I appreciate the way the book was done, and it IS beautifully done, but I can easily see this being a frustrating and difficult book for younger readers. At almost 600 pages, even if it does have large print, and lots of extra space on each page, it's a chunkster for its target age group.

There is a great deal of educational opportunity within this book, though, and I highly recommend it. It gives us a look at the prejudices towards various races and religions throughout time and in different parts of the world. It also gives us a little education in music, and the journey it has made. There are song lyrics, along with the accompanying music notes for various songs. It's a great way to create a greater appreciation for music, and teach the healing and encouragement it provides.

*I was provided an ARC, in exchange for my honest opinion.

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