Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Echo - Pam Muñoz Ryan

Summary:  Lost and alone
in a forbidden 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, in turn, become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives.  All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together.  And ultimately, pulled by the invisible thread of destiny, their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo.

Richly imagined and masterfully crafted, Echo pushes the boundaries of genre and form and shows us what is possible in how we tell stories.  The result is an impassioned, uplifting, and virtuosic tour de force that will resound in your heart long after the last note has been struck.  (Book given free at NCTE as an Advanced Reader Copy during a Scholastic luncheon.  Summary from inside book cover.  Image from goodreads.com)

My Review:  Wow.  For many reasons, wow.  For the length--587 pages.  For the thoroughly planned and executed plot.  For the artfully crafted characters.  For a beautifully structured organization.  But, should you expect anything less from Pan Muñoz Ryan?  I think not.

Three are four clear stories in this novel, although one could argue there's a fifth that isn't clearly articulated.  Because there are four full stories, this is a long book and could be quite daunting to read for a young reader.  That is, unless they've already conquered Harry Potter.  I'm sure this wouldn't scare a child away after that.  I think that Muñoz could have possibly broken this isn't four different stories, but then you wouldn't have had the incredible arch story line that ties up so nicely at the end.  You really have a sense of closure when this book finishes, a come full circle effect.

Since this is an Advanced Reader Copy, I'm assuming there's a possibility of minor changes.  I don't know if I could find something that needs changing though.  The only reason I gave it 4.5 stars instead of 5 stars is that I didn't understand the structure going into it (the back of the book doesn't have the description on my ARC and it wasn't until I was already 3/4's through the book that I realized it was on the back page of the front cover) and so it seemed to wander without direction.  That is, until the end and you have a very satisfactory conclusion.  But because of this long story  (almost 600 pages!) line, I found myself not always lured back to read.  So, I took off .5 stars for that.  Maybe I shouldn't.  But, I did.  Still, this is a good book, one I'd definitely recommend to friends and family.  Muñoz is an incredible writer.

My last plug is that I got to listen to Muñoz read the first handful of pages with a couple other authors while at the National Council Teachers of English convention in November.  It wasn't hard to want the book without knowing anything about it (it's Pam Muñoz Ryan!), but to have her wet our appetites was amazing!  She's a very engaging speaker and reader as well as a talented writer.

For the sensitive reader:  Nothing in here I'd be worried about my elementary aged-daughter reading.  Clean, through and through.

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Sum it up:  An intricately woven tale of fulfilled dreams despite dire circumstances.

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