I want to write this post with as much zeal as I put into explaining and recommending to my mom that she read the middle grade book, Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan. So, imagine this as an impassioned monologue as to why anyone should read this story.
The prologue reads like a fairy tale. It begins with a boy named Otto, who gets lost in the woods and happens upon three sisters under a witch's spell. The sisters entwine their lives with the boys by taking his harmonica and each in turn blowing a note. They tell him that the harmonica will bring him much happiness, but in time he must let it go so that it may pass on to someone else who needs it. This harmonica will find its way into the hands of three young people who make quite heart-wrenching stories.
The book contains the stories of Friedrich, Mike, and Ivy. To save time, I will cover Friedrich's story and let you read the rest of the book.
Friedrich's story takes place during the rise of Hitler. It was fascinating to read a story from the point of view of a German family that did not support Hitler. Friedrich's loves are symphony and his harmonica. Freidrich's dream is to be a conductor. His father encourages this love by asking him to play his harmonica, taking him to concerts and after retirement from the music world, hosting chamber concerts at their house.
Friedrich and his father receive quite a shock when his sister comes home for a short stay and informs them she has joined the League of German Girls. Friedrich's father decides that they will lie to his sister and pretend they sympathize with Hitler's cause because Friedrich's father would do anything to protect his children.
During an impromptu chamber concert where his father gets into trouble for being a suspected Jew lover and is sent to Dachau. Friedrich and his uncle plan to rescue his father and run away from Germany.
The plan is for Friedrich to deliver bribe money to the commandant of Dachau so that his father may be released and then they will meet up with his uncle several days later. The day of, Friedrich acts like it is a normal day at work, but realizes he kept his harmonica is his pocket even though he was told not to take any valuables with him to Dachau. He then places his beloved harmonica in a shipment bound for America, hoping it will find a new loving owner. Friedrich boards the train on his way to Dachau only to be removed by the same police who took his father away. Part 1 ends...yes, it ends there.
Two more intriguing stories to become involved in and then the very end ties it together.
Bravo, Pam Muñoz Ryan, bravo.