I said I was going to be reading Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan in August, but then in June I found myself needing a new audiobook to listen to and EVERYONE on this post was raving about how amazing the audiobook version of Echo was.
So I snagged a copy of audio copy of it and . . . you guys were right. The audio version was incredible.
It’s read by four different narrators and there is a bunch of music woven into the narrative and the whole thing just blew my mind.
It won a Newbery Honor back in January and it absolutely deserved it.
The blurb about it didn’t really give me a great sense of what the story was actually about, so I felt like I kind of went into it blindly, which is somewhat rare for me, since I usually do a reasonable amount of reading about a book before I jump in.
The book begins with a young boy named Otto who wanders into the Black Forest and meets three sisters – he discovers their story, which includes a prophecy and a harmonica. Of course, when he returns to his home, no one believes he met these three sisters.
The storyline then moves to three different children spread across the world. You get almost the complete story about each one and then it ends on something of a cliffhanger and goes onto the next child’s story.
First, you have Friedrich. He lives in Germany as Hitler is rising to power and he dreams of being an orchestra conductor. But he has a large birthmark on his face and, in a country looking for a superior race, Friedrich is not a prime candidate. His sister has fully bought into Hitler’s vision for the country, which quickly starts to divide their family. Then Friedrich’s father disappears and it’s up to Friedrich to attempt to save him.
Next you have Mike, an orphan boy in Pennsylvania with a talent for music and a single-eyed determination to protect his little brother. Their chances of being adopted, especially together, seem very slim but Mike thinks it’s possible that he can use his musical abilities to make life better for his younger brother (even if that’s at his own expense).
And then Ivy in California. Her family is from Mexico and despite the fact that her older brother is off fighting for the U.S. military in World War II, her family is facing significant racism in their new home in California. Of course, it seems somewhat minimal when Ivy compares it to the family who once resided in the house her family is now responsible for taking care of. That family is Japanese and they’ve been sent to live in an internment camp for the duration of the war, leaving their beautiful home and land behind with the hope that they’ll someday be allowed to return.
Of course, all these stories tie together through the harmonica that each of them ends up with for a period of time, and at the end, when you learn how each child’s story intertwines, it makes for a beautiful finale.
I’ve read some reviews saying it tied up too neatly and they would have preferred to guess for themselves how each story wrapped up, but I’ll admit I’m one of those people who basically wants as many details as possible about how everything turned out, so I didn’t mind for a moment.
And this really is one where the audio version is worth listening to if possible – I can’t tell you how many reviews I’ve read saying this was the BEST audiobook they’d ever listened to. (You can sign up for a free Audible trial and get two free audiobooks, so if you’ve never used Audible, this is an excellent way to get Echo for free).
This was one of those books where I was looking for tasks to do so I could keep listening.
I’m always so impressed by books set in and around WWII that manage to feel new and fresh, despite the fact that approximately ten trillion books have been written about WWII.
Echo was one of those books.