Monday, May 4, 2015

Harmonica Tunes Play On in "Echo"

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan begins in the Black Forest, where Otto Messenger meets three mysterious sisters where he gets a book from them that contains an unfinished tale.  He then finds himself entwined in a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica.  Decades later, the harmonica travels through three children in three different time periods as it unties its lifelong fate. 

First the harmonica travels to 1933 Germany.  Here a young Friedrich Schmidt is constantly bullied at school because of his facial birthmark and his obsession with conducting music that only he can hear in his own head.  So he leaves school to join his father who works at a factory constructing harmonicas. 

Then in 1935, the harmonica meets up with Michael and his younger brother who have both found themselves living in an orphanage during the Great Depression in Pennsylvania.  They both get adopted by a woman who they both fear she is not impressed with them and will return them back where they came from.  Yet, Mike has his sights on joining Albert Hoxie's Philadelphia Harmonica Band.

On it's third stop, the harmonica travels to California in 1942 where Ivy Maria Lopez's father relocates her family to a farm to act as a caretaker while its Japanese owners are relocated to an internment camp during World War II, requiring her to leave her music program behind.  While Ivy's school situation and moving frustrates her, she finds solace in playing her harmonica.   It is up to Ivy to uphold her beloved harmonica's final destiny. 

While each of the three protagonists struggle to keep their families intact, they are all tied together by the music of the same harmonica.  So don't let the length of this 585 paged book alarm you.  It is carefully written and researched, as it pulls readers in, giving them a glimpse of American history, music theory, and music history.  The book also includes a introduction on how to play a harmonica.  It's a perfect read for any reader in fifth grade on up with a love of books and wishes to spend a lazy day emerged in literature.  This book really pulled me in...and I lost a lot of sleep over it too! 

No comments: