I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan
Published: 2015 by Scholastic
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade
Source: the publisher
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Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan is a middle-grade novel that combines historical fiction and a fairy tale to tell the story of young people who rise above adversity with the help of music.
The prologue begins with a tale of three princesses who are held captive by a magical spell. In order to free themselves, they infuse power into a magical harmonica, which they give to a little boy who is lost in the woods. The little boy finds his way home and moves on with his life, but now the harmonica is in our own world, and Echo proceeds to tell the story of three characters who each find the harmonica. The first, a boy named Friedrich, is growing up in Nazi Germany. Freidrich has a birthmark on his face, and finds himself threatened by Hitler’s sterilization policies for “undesirables.” Then there is Mike, an orphan in Pennsylvania who is trying to stay with his brother and make sure he has a decent life. Mike and his brother are adopted, and it seems as if his dreams have come true, but all is not as it appears, and the new life they’ve begun to build is at stake. And finally, we see Ivy, a California girl who wants a home and friendships and music, but finds herself dealing with segregated schooling because she is Latina, while also realizing the plight of the Japanese families who were placed in internment camps. Each of the protagonists finds himself or herself dealing with adversity and discrimination, and it is the power of music that helps them to stay strong against all odds.
This book had ALL THE FEELS. Each section of the book ended in a cliffhanger, and I gasped and cried as my heart went out to each of the characters, and while everything comes together in the end, I worried that it wouldn’t, because I’m jaded and know way too much about history. I found that perhaps the characters got off a bit too easily and that everything was wrapped up too well at the end of the novel, but was able to accept that because of the story’s fairy tale component, which wouldn’t have made as much sense without a happily-ever-after.
Over the past few years, I’ve come to love books that experiment with genre blending, and Echo was no exception. It may be meant for younger readers, but it managed to touch me even as an adult. At almost 600 pages, the book is a bit longer than most middle grade books, but the story is so gripping that I don’t think keeping readers’ attention should be a problem.