Note: I know that many of you are waiting for a travel update, and I am working on one, but I have a lot of books to write about! So I’m playing catch-up. My first post from Peru will come soon, I promise.
Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan is a charming middle-grade reader that follows the stories of three different children at different points in time. Each of the children come from a different background with entirely different experiences, but they all have one thing in common: an enchanted harmonica.
The beginning pages of the book describe how the harmonica became enchanted, with a sweet, fairytale-like story about three orphaned sisters and the boy they recruit to help them. The subsequent three parts of the novel are all part of the sisters’ journey. The three tales all end abruptly, at seemingly bad moments for the children they are about. This was very distressing for me the first time it happened, as the resolution seemed so far away. I grew accustomed to it, though, and the author did not leave me hanging.
It is historical fiction with an element of magical realism, as one of the tales takes place before World War II during Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, and the two others describe two orphan boys and one daughter of a migrant worker family in the United States during WWII. It generates interest in the time period and all the various challenges and dangers posed by Hitler and the Second World War. I have always found this era of history incredibly fascinating, and it would be a good recommendation for children who take an interest in it.
This is also a story that encourages children to find resources within themselves to solve seemingly insurmountable problems. The children in each of these stories face a unique set of challenges and must find a way to solve them on their own, as the adults in their lives are usually unreliable or in danger themselves. The children’s shared love of and talent for music offers a way to find comfort and give hope for their families in challenging times of danger or hardship.
I loved this book. I think your middle-grade reader should read it because it has many beautiful elements that come together to make a lovely little novel. If you’re into books for kids, I recommend you read this too!