Interwoven by a single object, the three lives of children are forever changed by magical harmonica in the novel Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan.
The story begins with a young boy named Otto, who meets three sisters when he gets lost in a forbidden forest. Interacting with them, Otto realizes the mysterious nature of them. The sisters guide him home, and give him a harmonica with a special “M” seal. The harmonica makes its way to a young boy named Friedrich in Germany.
Hitler is rising, and the Nazi’s party influence is very prominent; resistance to it is very difficult. Discovering the special harmonica in the factory his Father works in, Friedrich plays it and realizes there is something special about it. Because of unforeseen circumstances, he is forced to get rid of the harmonica.
It travels next to Mike, an orphan, in Pennsylvania. Constantly taking care of his younger brother, Mike is looking for a break to help himself and his brother out of their destitute lives. Musically gifted with playing the piano, Mike discovers the special harmonica. He and his brother are eventually adopted, but there are some complications with their new guardian. The last child in the novel is Ivy. Receiving the harmonica, her special talent for playing is recognized by her teacher; her teacher chooses her to play a solo in a special concert, but Ivy’s Father receives a job, forcing her to move way. Her Father’s job is to take care of a farm of Japanese family, while they are in an internment camp. The neighboring farms are anti-Japanese, and some vandalize the property. The harmonica helps her adjust to the move. Each of the children’s lives have their own story with the harmonica, but the ending ties them all together beautifully.
Even though this book is intended for younger children, anybody of any age would enjoy this novel because of its simplistic nature and “feel-good” element. My favorite part of this book was how there were multiple stories, and they were told in such detail, that one was able to connect and understand the individual characters. It is also relatable because of the backdrop of the second World War, and how it impacted people differently depending on where they lived. The “magic” element made the novel all the more enjoyable because it captured the innocence of the young children.
I loved Echo, and I would recommend it to anybody looking for a light, quick read.
Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.