Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Published by Scholastic Press in 2015
This is a book that touches your soul and inspires you to walk up to the next person you meet and tell them to read this book. A beautiful narrative that weaves it’s way through time and stories reminds us of the powers of stories, and that every person has a story worth telling.
The story begins with Otto, who finds himself thrust into a fairy tale. He meets 3 girls, stripped of their names and cursed by a witch, and they tell Otto their story. The girls, Eins, Zwei, and Drei, give Otto a harmonica. Every player of the harmonica will have their souls connected, woven together through time. The girls will not be free until they save 3 souls on the brink of death, and their only tool is that harmonica.
Part one focuses on Friedrich, a boy in 1930’s Germany. He has a birthmark on his face, and that has caused people to judge him. Friedrich’s father is active in the music community. When Friedrich is bullied at school, his father pulls him from school and gets him an apprenticeship at a harmonica factory. He works with the harmonicas and is tutored by employees.
Hitler is beginning his rise to power, and Friedrich’s sister and others joined the Hitler youth. His father is taken away for being outspoken. Freidrich is working with his uncle to secure his safe return from the labor camp Dachau. Will they succeed?
Part two tells the story of Mike and Frankie in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania in 1935. They are orphans living at Bishop’s Orphanage, their grandmother chose that orphanage because of it’s piano. One day, a man comes to the orphanage and asks someone to play the piano. Mike and Frankie play a beautiful tune and the mysterious man offers to take them to be adopted by a woman named Eunice Dow Sturbridge. Then, things get odd. Mr. Howard, the man who got them from the orphanage, has been caring. Mrs. Sturbridge avoids the boys.
They soon learn that Mrs. Sturbridge has a son who died, and that her father had put it in his will that she had to adopt a child after his death, preferably a musical child. Mrs. Sturbridge was agreeing to the terms of the will, but still suffering from the depression of losing her child. Mike makes a deal with her, that no matter what, she’ll keep Frankie. Mike will be able to find a job and survive until he turns 18.
After the deal is stuck, Mrs. Sturbridge starts acting like a parent. Mike feel proud knowing his brother will be safe. Then, just when he thinks things are stable, Mike finds a document, questions the deal, and an accident occurs.
Part three takes us to California in 1942. Ivy’s family moves from a work camp and to a new home. Her father gets an interesting opportunity to watch over someone’s farm. Ivy asks where the farm owners have gone. The Yamamotos have been sent to internment camps because of the United States being at war with Japan. Ivy has to get used to a new school, a place where Mexican Americans are sent to special schools, the chance that she may be staying at a farm where they may have been spys, her brother joining the army and judgemental neighbors.
These paths are then woven together in a lyrical ending. This book pulls emotions out of the reader in every part. This book is a must read book!
“Your fate is not yet sealed.
Even in the darkest night, a star will shine,
A bell will chime, a path will be revealed.” (p. 23)
“And you will be forever joined to us, to all who have played the harp, and to all who will play it, by the silken thread of destiny.” (p. 24)
“Sometimes an instrument does that to a person. Makes the world seem brighter, with more possibilities.” (p. 295)
“Everybody has a heart. Sometimes you gotta work hard to find it…if there’s something you want or need to know from grown folks, you gotta step up and ask for it mannerly. Plead your case.” (p. 317)
“[in regards to Carnegie Hall] They say that all the musicians who have performed here have left a wisp of their spirits behind.” (p. 548)