Friday, June 16, 2017

Book Review for "Echo" {by Pam Muñoz Ryan}

AUTHOR: Pam Muñoz Ryan
PUBLISHER: Scholastic Press
NUMBER OF PAGES: 600ish pages (sorry I did audio!)
READING LEVEL: Upper Middle grade
GENRE: Young adult fiction

BOOK SUMMARY: This novel combines four separate stories and weaves the tale of the harmonica that binds them together. Each story is focused on a child and how they find strength in this harmonica – even in some of the darkest of times. Though these stories are all different, the threads the characters share are beautiful and touching.

Our Star Rating...

4.5 star

Infographic for Echo

Echo tells 3 main stories: Friedrich, Mike and Ivy. All are children of preteen age, they all live in different times, places and circumstances. We get to read each one of their stories separately, and the power of music is what connects their stories in ways you wouldn't have guessed. Each character has a discrete story that could stand on its own, but all of them are linked through time and distance by a harmonica. I know, but don’t question it—just go with it! That’s the beauty of middle grade literature; you can start with a humble harmonica and end up with a symphony that stays with you long after the last note/page.

Echo is what I will categorize as a historical fairytale. I think that there's a reason we adults come back to fairytales again and again. As much as I love my Fantasy novels, there's a part of me that needs to believe. Everyone needs to believe in a better world once in a while, to let a bright day overtake the clouds of reality.

I want to mention that since each child's story is told separately it can leave the reader feeling a bit disjointed; just when the reader is fully vested in a child, their story halts and a new character is introduced. This might have been a point of dislike for me had the author not woven all of the stories together with such finesse before the final page. 

All three main characters demonstrated such sacrificial love for other people. They were very similar not only in their love of music but through their kindness and compassion for others. As the title suggests, each characters story echoes the one that came before it, revealing stories of fear, loneliness, and human atrocity. Even more powerful though, are the echos of hope, joy and beauty that reverberate throughout this book through the power of music. This book is perfect for middle grade readers AND adults since the writing is a beautiful captivating multilayered story that speaks to all ages.
  1. Did you like that this book was considered “middle grade?”
  • *No one even knew! The few who did know didn’t feel like it was a typical “middle grade” book. 
  1. What did we enjoy most about the book? 
  • Collectively, we loved the whimsical writing and the way the author had us emotionally connected with each of the characters. 
  1. What did we not enjoy about the book? 
  • Some of us had a hard time with the “flow” of the book. The author ties us into a story and it abruptly stops and begins the next story. Most of us agreed that we enjoyed the writing but it was hard to be so invested in one story and quickly make the change to the next story without a resolution to the previous story. It all makes sense at the end though, never fear. 
  1. Did you have a favorite character?
  • Munoz did such an amazing job with each of her characters. The majority of our group related with the first story, Friedrich, the most. His story is also based off of WW2 in Germany and many of us connected with that the most. 
  1. What was your favorite moment from the book? 
  • There were several quotes throughout the book that were so stunningly beautiful, and similar – again, connecting the three stories together. 
  1. Did you listen to the audio or read the book? 
  • The book cover is gorgeous, but almost all of us highly recommend listening to the audio. There is music entwined into each story and each song ties into that story perfectly. The books ends with music and there couldn’t be a more perfect way to end these four stories. 
  1. Did you like the ending? 
    • YES! We loved the summation of the book because we were left on such cliff-hangers with each of the stories! It was nice to get to the end and hear what became of all the characters we grew to love and how they’d grown up. 
  1. Did you think the harmonica was an appropriate musical instrument? 
    • For the most part, we agreed. This was very appropriate to the day and age. Also, harmonicas were cheap and easy for kids that age to carry around in their pockets. 

Some of us didn’t realize that playing the harmonica was an actual skill, but we learned that if you play the harmonica right, it can play two notes at the same time – which is pretty spectacular. 

The other thing we didn’t realize was that this whole story was started BY the harmonica! Munoz was actually researching another topic and came across a photo of a harmonica club. As she dug a little deeper, she realized she had two of her three stories for this book.

The most beautiful part about the harmonica was that it was for EVERYONE, no matter their status, where they lived, or their gender, each of these characters found hope, courage, and purpose in this harmonica. 

  1. If one (or more) of the characters made a choice that had moral implications, would you have made the same decision? Why? Why not?
    • Each of the characters had a moral decision to make – that’s what makes “Echo” so wonderful: it evokes those thoughts and really makes you think. 
      1. The first story,: Would you join Hitler’s youth to keep your family alive?
      2. The second story: What would you do to keep you younger sibling safe?
      3. The last story: Would you discriminate against the Japanese or do the “right thing?”
  1. Share any thoughts, quotes or comments made by anyone in our group that you wish or that you felt were important observations. 
    • Insert Kelly’s quotes. 
  1. Overall, what did we think of this book?
    • This book was beautiful. It was so well written and thought-provoking. It made you think and the music made us swoon. We rated this book very high and definitely recommend “Echo” to anyone looking for a good read. 


"Echo" is about music....
I can't imagine that 'reading' this book could compare to the AUDIOBOOK EXPERIENCE.
LISTENING to the orchestra is **harmonious**....and the storytelling is wonderful.
The performances by the four readers are amazing, but what puts the production over the top is the seamless incorporation of music from start to finish.