Thank you Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee & Ricki at Unleashing Readers for hosting It’s Monday! What are you Reading? Readers across the blogging community share their latest reading experiences, opening new possibilities for sharing the impact of books on our lives.
It begins with a boy and a book: The Thirteenth Harmonica of Otto Messenger. It continues with a tale, “A Witch, A Kiss, A Prophecy,” complete with kings and queens, witches and curses, lies and deception. As young Otto reads the tale, the lines between reality and fantasy become blurred. A refrain rings out:
“Your fate is not yet sealed.
Even in the darkest night, a star will shine,
A bell will chime, a path will be revealed.”
This refrain holds true throughout the entire novel. Pam Munoz Ryan artfully weaves together the stories of 3 children: Friedrich, Mike, and Ivy. Each section is introduced with a new harmonica score.
Brahms’ Lullaby– Friedrich is a 12-year-old boy who was supposed to have died at birth. Instead, his mother dies, and he has to come to grips with his imperfections. Living in Germany in 1933, Hitler’s policies threaten to divide Friedrich’s family. When he is forced to leave his home, he also has to leave his treasured harmonica behind.
America the Beautiful– Mike, an orphan in Pennsylvania in 1935, is doing everything he can to stick with his younger brother Frankie, the only family he has left. Mike’s musical talent opens doors, and the boys find themselves in a rags to riches situation that can be ripped out from under them as quickly as it was bestowed upon them. Once again, the harmonica is at the forefront of the story as the brothers try to find a home.
Auld Lang Syne- Ivy Lopez, the daughter of migrant workers in Southern California in 1942, suddenly has to leave her friends and school to move with her family yet again. To make matters worse, Ivy’s brother enlists in the army, and she is placed in a segregated school. But Ivy is an exceptional harmonica player, which enables her to face these challenges.
All three main characters are bound together by the spell of music and the mystery of the harmonica. You will find yourself reading faster and faster to get to the point when the three stories merge.
But don’t read so quickly that you miss
- the beautiful language with which Ryan composes
- the complexities of the characters and how they respond to personal challenges
- the twists and turns of the plot due to the influence of historical events in each time period
- the ways in which music bridges culture and circumstance
I haven’t read a book quite like Echo before. Pam Munoz Ryan skillfully shifts between genres and time periods. At the end, readers will discover how Otto, Friedrich, Mike, Ivy, and the harmonica are ultimately connected. This book is not to be missed!
Why now? We Need Diverse Books is a campaign to address the lack of diversity in children’s books. All of our kids hope to see characters like themselves in the books available to them. Pam Munoz Ryan discusses the diversity in her books and how her own background contributes to them in this video. I’d love to hear your thoughts about Echo, Ryan’s body of work, or diverse books in the classroom in the comments. The book is in your court!
Note: Echo is on my #MustReadin2015 list. To see the other books on the list, check out this post.