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Cover image for Echo

Publication Information:
New York : Scholastic Audiobooks, 2015.
Physical Description:
9 sound discs ; digital ; 4 3/4 in.
General Note:
Compact disc.
Lost in the Black Forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and finds himself entwined in a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica--and decades later three children, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California find themselves caught up in the same thread of destiny in the darkest days of the twentieth century, struggling to keep their families intact, and tied together by the music of the same harmonica.


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Music, magic, and a real-life miracle meld in this virtuosic, genre-defying tour de force from storytelling maestro Pam Munoz Ryan.

Lost and alone in the forbidden Black Forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica.

Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives, binding them by an invisible thread of destiny. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. How their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo will resound in your heart long after the last note has been struck.

Richly imagined and structurally innovative, ECHO pushes the boundaries of form and shows us what is possible in how we tell stories.

Author Notes

Author Pam Muñoz Ryan was born in Bakersfield, California on December 25, 1951. She received a B. A. in child development and a M. A. in education from San Diego State University. Before becoming a full-time author, she worked as a bilingual Head Start teacher and as an early childhood program administrator. At first, she wrote adult books about child development, but soon switched to writing children's books.

She has written over twenty-five picture books, novels, and nonfiction books for young readers. The novel Esperanza Rising, winner of the Pura Belpre Medal, the Jane Addams Peace Award, an ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults, and the Americas Award Honor Book, is based on her own grandmother's immigration from Mexico to California. Riding Freedom has also won many awards including the national Willa Cather Award and the California Young Reader Medal. When Marian Sang, a picture book about singer Marian Anderson, won numerous awards including the ALA Sibert Honor and NCTE's Orbis Pictus Award. In 2015 her title Echo made The New York Times Best Seller List. She also won a Kirkus Prize in the children's literature category with her title 'Echo'.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 6

Horn Book Review

Lost in the forest, a boy is mesmerized by a story about three princesses trapped under a witch's spell until they save a life through a special harmonica. This story within a story is prelude to a set of three more: young Friedrich, working in a harmonica factory in 1933 Germany, watches as his sister joins the Hitler Youth and his father endangers the family by speaking out against the Nazis, sending Friedrich on a desperate plan of rescue. Two orphaned brothers with musical talent in 1935 Pennsylvania struggle to stay together, resting their hopes on a rich widow and a traveling harmonica band. In 1942 California, Ivy Lopez's family takes over the farm of an interned Japanese family, where Ivy finds herself for the first time in a segregated school. She strives to bring three families together -- white, Latino, and Japanese American -- who all have sons in the armed forces. Ryan fluidly builds setting, character, and drama for each story and then leaves each on a knife's edge; the expected yet compelling epilogue winds all stories together, on one splendid postwar night at Carnegie Hall. The harmonica and the love of music serve as the unifying threads for these tales of young people who save the lives and spirits of their families and neighbors, each in a time marked by bigotry and violence. It's an ambitious device, but Ryan's storytelling prowess and vivid voice lead readers expertly through a hefty tome illuminated by layers of history, adventure, and the seemingly magical but ultimately very human spirit of music. nina lindsay (c) Copyright 2015. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-This World War II-set story concerns three children: 12-year-old Friedrich in Germany in 1933, 11-year-old Mike in Pennsylvania in 1935, and fifth-grader Ivy in southern California in 1942. They have nothing in common except a love for music, difficult challenges they each have to face, and, by an odd coincidence, the use of the same harmonica. The three characters are united at the end of the story in a satisfying conclusion. The narrators include Mark Bramhall, David de Vries, Macleod Andrews, and Rebecca Soler; the beautiful harmonica and piano music integrated into the recording is performed by Corky Siegel. Ryan's lyrical phrases are read beautifully by the narrators, but it is the inclusion of the musical performances that make this audiobook stand apart from others. VERDICT A must purchase.-Julie Paladino, East Chapel Hill High School, NC © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

It's hard to imagine a better way to experience this story than in the audiobook format. Music infuses the entire plot line; the characters are cellists, pianists, conductors, and singers. They hear orchestras and have chamber concerts in their homes. And a simple harmonica links the three main narratives. In pre-WWII Germany, young Friedrich, a budding conductor, finds comfort in playing a harmonica as he plots to rescue his father from a concentration camp. Mike and his little brother, Frankie, are in a Pennsylvania orphanage in 1935. Mike may need to win a spot in a harmonica orchestra to keep Frankie safe. In 1942 California, Ivy, a young migrant farm worker, plays the harmonica while living on a farm owned by Japanese-Americans who are in an internment camp. All three characters find great strength in music. The audio edition takes full advantage of the medium, with music playing throughout the story-simple harmonica tunes and orchestral music play in the background and the readers even sing at times. Ages 10-14. A Scholastic Press hardcover. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

When Otto meets three ethereal sisters, he has no idea that the harmonica they enchant will one day save a life. Decades later, the very same harmonica makes its way to America, and in three sections, Ryan tells the stories of kids whose lives are changed by its music: Friedrich Schmidt, in 1933 Germany, whose father is a Jewish sympathizer; Mike Finnegan, an orphan in Philadelphia in 1935; and Ivy Lopez, living with her parents in California in 1942 while they take care of the farm of a Japanese family who has been sent to an internment camp. The magical harmonica not only helps each of the three discover their inborn musical talents but also gives them the courage to face down adversity and injustice. Though the fairy tale-like prologue and conclusion seem a bit tacked on, Ryan nonetheless builds a heartening constellation of stories around the harmonica, and the ultimate message that small things can have a powerful destiny is resoundingly hopeful. Harmonica tabs are included for readers who want to try their hands at the instrument.--Hunter, Sarah Copyright 2015 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

SO, THE HARMONICA. We can probably all picture one in the hands of some 4-year-old, pressed to the child's lips as she makes a wheezy, buzzy racket. Or being played by a convict in an old jailhouse movie as he lies on his bunk. But it's not a serious instrument, not something you'd associate with real music. Or with words like magic, power or beauty. After reading Pam Muñoz Ryan's enchanting new novel, you'll never think of a harmonica the same way again. In "Echo," a harmonica travels across years and over continents and seas to touch the lives of three embattled, music-obsessed children - and, quite possibly, save a life. Twelve-year-old Friedrich, growing up in Germany during the years of Hitler's rise to power, dreams of being a conductor. While in the street or in the school-yard, he cannot stop his hands from flying upward to guide a music only he can hear. By itself, such behavior singles him out. But Friedrich would never pass unnoticed, because of the birthmark that covers half his face, branding him as an undesirable and earning him the nickname Monster Boy. While preparing for his audition at the conservatory, Friedrich happens upon a mysterious harmonica. Playing it, he gains strength and courage. But as each day brings some new threat, the chances of Friedrich achieving his dream, or even keeping his family together, grow more and more faint. Two years later, the harmonica has passed to Mike Flannery in Pennsylvania. It's the depths of the Great Depression, and Mike, 11 years old and almost six feet tall, lives in the Bishop's Home for Friendless and Destitute Children with his younger brother, Frankie. When Mike and Frankie are adopted by the wealthy Mrs. Sturbridge, they leap from squalor to luxury. But it soon becomes clear that she doesn't want them, and the brothers are to be split up and sent away. Mike strikes a deal with Mrs. Sturbridge. If he wins a spot in a famous harmonica orchestra (yes, there was such a thing, I checked), he will leave, and Mrs. Sturbridge will keep Frankie with her rather than sending him to a state home. The final story focuses on Ivy Lopez, whose family has been working as migrant farm laborers in California. It's a year after Pearl Harbor, and Ivy and her family arrive to manage a farm in Orange County whose Japanese-American owners, the Yamamotos, have been sent to an internment camp. In her new home, Ivy encounters institutional racism as she and the other Latino children are forced to attend a separate school with an "Americanization" program. As the newest owner of the harmonica, Ivy, too, finds refuge and strength in its music. But soon enough, her family's ties to the Yamamotos put them in crisis, and Ivy finds herself keeping what she fears is a terrible secret. Long before the three stories came together in the book's last, triumphant section, I'd been won over by the complex, largehearted characters Muñoz Ryan has created and the virtues - bravery, tolerance, kindness - that the novel espouses. But Muñoz Ryan - the author of the much-loved "Esperanza Rising" and "The Dreamer" - is also a writer who cares about sentences. When Friedrich, preparing to leave his childhood home, plays his town a lullaby on the harmonica, "he swayed, as if cradling Trossingen and its half-timbered houses." Mike Flannery's responsibility for his younger brother "had become another layer of skin. Just when he thought he might shed a little, or breathe easy, or even laugh out loud, it tightened over him." Start to finish, the book is a joy to read. It's not without flaws, though. There is a confusing frame story of three fairy-tale sisters and a lost boy; and while I'm all for the fusion of the magical world and the real one, that fusion is never fully realized in "Echo." The fairy-tale element feels like an appendage, detracting from the reality and emotional heft of the children's stories. And while Muñoz Ryan builds the stories with great skill, climaxes don't seem to interest her. What should be the critical moment of Friedrich's story happens essentially off-screen. And both Mike's and Ivy's stories hinge on O. Henry-esque twists, which retroactively cancel out any peril we might have felt. But I always found myself eager to return to the book and the characters I had come to love. And what else really matters? The music swells, the book sings. JOHN STEPHENS is the author of "The Emerald Atlas" and "The Fire Chronicle." The final novel in the trilogy, "The Black Reckoning," will be published in April.

Kirkus Review

A multilayered novel set in turbulent times explores music's healing power. Sweeping across years and place, Ryan's full-bodied story is actually five stories that take readers from an enchanted forest to Germany, Pennsylvania, Southern California and finally New York City. Linking the stories is an ethereal-sounding harmonica first introduced in the fairy-tale beginning of the book and marked with a mysterious M. In Nazi Germany, 12-year-old Friedrich finds the harmonica in an abandoned building; playing it fills him with the courage to attempt to free his father from Dachau. Next, the harmonica reaches two brothers in an orphanage in Depression-era Pennsylvania, from which they are adopted by a mysterious wealthy woman who doesn't seem to want them. Just after the United States enters World War II, the harmonica then makes its way to Southern California in a box of used instruments for poor children; as fifth-grader Ivy Lopez learns to play, she discovers she has exceptional musical ability. Ryan weaves these stories together, first, with the theme of musicsymbolized by the harmonicaand its ability to empower the disadvantaged and discriminated-against, and then, at the novel's conclusion, as readers learn the intertwined fate of each story's protagonist. A grand narrative that examines the power of music to inspire beauty in a world overrun with fear and intolerance, it's worth every moment of readers' time. (Historical fiction. 9-14) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.



From THE SAVAGE FORTRESS: Ash tightened his hold on the drainpipe and hoisted himself up. The pipe shook and leaned away from the wall. John had told him he regularly scrabbled up such drainpipes -- how hard could it be? But then John was half his body weight, even after all the exercise Ash had been doing. Arms and legs wrapped around the clay pipe, Ash slowly shimmied upward. The rough surface scraped against his skin, rubbing his belly raw. Cables brushed against his back, and Ash hoped he wasn't about to be electrocuted. But the wires seemed dead, and he found gaps in the walls to push himself the last few feet. With a grunt he heaved himself over the low parapet, dropping on to the flat roof. Holding his breath and willing his heart to quieten, he heard a deep, threatening growl. The drainpipe rattled, then tore off the wall and smashed. Excerpted from Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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