Thursday, March 16, 2017

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

Echo has already become one of my favorite books.  It is a riveting, unique story told with an exceptional narrative unlike any I’ve read before.  The three parallel stories were not only engaging, but valued the human spirit and what connects us all together.

It’s hard to describe this unique book, and I find myself afraid of trying.  I know I will not do the book justice, but I’ll try!  One of the unique points about this book as it starts as almost a fairy tale with a small boy finding a magical harmonica in the woods and discovering a curse on three sisters.  The harmonica in this prologue then travels through the bulk of the story only to end with the beginning fairy tale and wrapping up the side of the story.  I really liked this format.

Three children living before and during WWII in Germany, Pennsylvania, and California are linked through music and one special harmonica.  In 1933 Germany, Friedrich’s family is torn apart when his sister Elizabeth supports Hitler’s new regime while his father and Uncle do not.  Friedrich, his Uncle, and father all work at a harmonica factory, where Friedrich discovers a special harmonica in an old desk drawer.  Being non-conformist musicians in Nazi Germany and with Friedrich having a birth mark and epilepsy as a baby, the family knows they have to flee.  Will they be able to escape?

Mike and Frankie are musically gifted orphans in 1935 Pennsylvania.  Mike plays beautifully on the piano, but also receives a magically harmonica that he dreams of using to join a harmonica band.  The two brothers are adopted by a mysterious benefactress who wanted a musically gifted child.  Finding herself mistakenly saddled with two children rather than one, Mike is afraid that Frankie will be sent back to the orphanage.  Will the two brothers be able to find love and acceptance?

In Southern California in 1942, Ivy and her family have found a new opportunity. Her family is going to take care of a farm for a Japanese family that has been interned.  In payment, they will be able to keep a home on the farm afterwards.  Ivy also faces a new experience when she goes to school and discovers that even though she is a top notch student, because she has Hispanic heritage even though she was born in the US, she has to attend a different school just for Hispanic students.  She is comforted by her love of music and her special harmonica. Will Ivy be able to find happiness at her new home and will she be able to face the social prejudice from neighbors? 

Echo was the March pick for the FLICKS Book and Movie Club (aka Rogue).  It provided good discussion topics at our meeting.  We all enjoyed the unique narrative, although one member would have liked there to be more to the fairy tale story that bookended the entire tale.  We also loved how the harmonica tied together the entire story.  The overall book was a great story of humanity and how even in troubled times, there are good people and a fight worth fighting to have a better life for all people.  This is technically a junior fiction book, but it had good themes for readers of any age.  It also has cliff hanger type endings for each of the three tales that kept me on the edge of my seat.  I was glad that they were all resolved at the end of the novel.  I was also horrified by some of the dilemmas the children in the book faced, even more so as they were real dilemmas for children of the 1930’s and 1940’s.

My favorite quotes:

“Once, long before enchantment was eclipsed by doubt, an anxious and desperate king awaited the birth of his first child.”

“Just last night, after reading yet another article, Father had paced the kitchen and ranted, ‘Is there no room in this country for more than one way of thinking?  Hitler bullies parliament to make laws on whims.  Hitler takes away all civil rights and gives his storm troopers the freedom to question anyone for any reason.  Hitler wants to cleanse the population for a pure German race!’”

“Music does not have a race or a disposition!”

Overall, Echo is one of the best books I’ve read in quite some time.  It has an exceptional story with distinctive characters who face problems that make the reader really think about humanity overall and what links us together.

Book Source:  The Kewaunee Public Library

1 comment:

  1. This book is new to me. I'm glad that you enjoyed it, Laura. I enjoyed your favorite quotes.