Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan is three books in one, linked together by a mysterious harmonica.
is a musical boy in 1933 Germany, where political tensions run high.
His outspoken father, recently retired from the Hohner harmonica factory
where Friedrich and his uncle Gunter still work, opposes Hitler and his
ideas about racial purity -- but Friedrich's older sister Elisabeth has
just started getting involved with the League of German Girls. When
Friedrich, who was born with a port wine stain covering half of his
face, is in danger from the new regime and his father is in danger for
speaking out against it, what will become of Friedrich and his family?
is a scrappy orphan in 1935 Philadelphia. Above all else, he wants to
stay together with his younger brother Frankie, but it's rare for two
orphans to be placed together from their orphanage. When, against the
odds, the two brothers are placed with a wealthy lady, Mike knows it's
too good to be true. The lady wanted a girl, not two boys. Mike knows
that Frankie, with his winning personality, can charm their new guardian
-- and perhaps he can find his own place in the world, maybe even in
Hoxie's Philadelphia Harmonica Band. Is there any way that the brothers
can stay together, or will Mike have to sacrifice to give Frankie his
Ivy is a migrant worker's daughter in 1942
California. Her father has just gotten a good job managing a farm for a
Japanese resident who has been relocated to a internment camp, and Ivy
is crushed because that will mean moving away from her favorite teacher
and her best friend, just days before she was to have a solo in her
class harmonica concert on the radio. In her new home, Ivy is dismayed
to discover that the school system is segregated and Mexican students
are bused to a separate elementary school. In facing this injustice in
her life, she also reflects on the greater injustice faced by Japanese
residents like the Yamamoto family who own the farm where her father now
works. But when Ivy and her mother go to the Yamamoto house to check
for rodents or any other damage, Ivy finds a mysterious locked door at
the back of a closet. What secrets have the house's owners hidden away?
Are they really enemies of America, as some of the neighbors believe?
This is a hefty chunk of a book, since it is really three books in one,
tied together with a fairy-tale-like frame story and a unique harmonica
that makes its way into the hands of each of the three children in turn.
However, I found it a fast, well-paced read with interesting characters
and a gripping plot. The dialogue is a little teach-y in spots, but not
enough to detract from my enjoyment of the book. I liked how the author
tied the events of each story together at the end of the book. In my
opinion, the frame story was the weakest bit of the book, but perhaps
that was just because I was expecting historical fiction and the fantasy
element seemed slightly out of place. Nevertheless, this is a good book
that will be enjoyed by both young readers and adults.
(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher.)