Tuesday, June 30, 2015
by Pam Munoz Ryan
Scholastic, 2015. 587 pgs. Fantasy
Echo is comprised of three stories, framed by a fairy tale. Fifty years before World War I, Otto gets lost in the forest and is found by three sisters, princesses in bondage to a witch. He reads to them from a book he has bought from a gypsy, which tells them their own story but stops abruptly at the point where they and Otto meet. Otto is given a magic harmonica and is told that when the time comes (he will know when it is!) he must pass it along to the next person, and they to the next, or the sisters will never be free. There follow the stories of Friedrich, a gifted young musician who works in a harmonica factory in Hitler's Germany; Mike and his brother Frankie, orphans who are temporarily adopted by a grieving mother because Mike has musical ability; and, finally, the story of Ivy, a young girl whose father is trying to make a living as a farm manager in California during World War II. Each child possesses the harmonica at a critical time, and each is blessed by the music of the princesses' instrument. This book is beautifully well read as an audiobook, but you may not be able to wait for the excellent readers to get to the end of this stirring tale, when the three children come together in remarkable circumstances. Though some of the cliff-hanger endings in these stories seem too readily resolved, on the whole Echo is a lovely, magical, old-fashioned tale. with hard-won, but well-deserved, happy endings. Should be a Newbery contender.