Magic and Music

Echo: A Novel, by Pam Muñoz Ryan, (Scholastic Press), 592 pages, release date 24 February, 2015

Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Echo is a young adult novel that transcends the genre. Yes, younger readers will enjoy this book, but its magic works for adults too.

Echo presents a trio of real-world stories framed by a fairy tale—and all of these are connected by one very unusual harmonica. The harmonica is graced with the voices of three captive princesses who will be released only after they have saved a soul. From this magical beginning, the harmonica moves to our world, traveling from one owner to another and transforming all their lives: there’s Otto, in Nazi Germany in 1933; Mike, in an orphan’s home in Philadelphia in 1935; and Ivy, in 1942, whose family is taking care of the home of a Japanese farming family who have been interned as the U.S. enters World War II.

This is a long novel, really three novels and a fairy tale, but it never drags. Each of the central characters is deeply engaging, shaped in some way by music and wrestling with some of the biggest challenges of the times they live in. If you know any younger readers who are looking for a book they can settle into for a long stay, Echo will suit your needs well. And, Echo will provide the same enjoyment for older readers who can appreciate a tale touched by magic.

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