After reading Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan I wanted to find the harmonica I was given as a child. I wanted to exhale through the small holes and make music like that described in the book. I wanted to look at it closely. I wanted it to be the harmonica in this book. So impressively has Pam Muñoz Ryan crafted a story blending fairy tale magic and history and populating the two with stories and characters that tug at our hearts that I wanted it to be real.
"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." ~From the Scholastic website
At ALA Midwinter, I heard Pam perform a reader's theatre script of an excerpt from the book. That she was reading with Sarah Weeks and Dan Gemeinhart made it even better. I was hooked.
When time allowed and I sat down to read Echo. I didn't stop. Each page turn carries weight in this emotionally suspenseful book. I wanted to know what would happen with the characters in each story, but I also knew that I would have to let them go once I did. I was vested in the lives of Friedrich, Mike, and Ivy. No spoiler alerts here, but know that I had to reread the ending twice, wanting to savor each moment as it passed.
Set during World War II, the stories in the book explore the effects of the war in three distinct and powerful experiences. I hope that this book inspires students to read more books on the subjects covered in Echo. I read two books with my students in the last two weeks that connect with the third story in the book, Ivy's story. The books are Barbed Wire Baseball by Marissa Moss and Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh. The conversations with students around these two events (internment camps and segregation) always give me hope --armed with knowledge this next generation will make better decisions.
I am planning to put together a list of companion texts for students that are reading Echo. What texts might you add to this list?
Maybe your interest goes more in the direction of the music? The Hohner website has a link to the German Harmonica Museum in Trossingen as well as great photos and information. Harmonicazation has some great tips on choosing and playing harmonicas. Anyone up for some summer lessons?