Monday, June 13, 2016
We've read all of Pam Munoz Ryan's novels to date and we love them all. Her newest book, Echo, is easily our favourite. It's a historical novel about hope in the midst of injustice through the eyes of children. With music as a thread throughout, Ryan crafted 3 separate stories wrapped within an overarching fairy tale, all bound together by one magical instrument - "The Thirteenth Harmonica of Otto Messenger".
Serena will give us a glimpse of these beautiful stories within the novel.
Story 1: In 1933 Hitler became chancellor and rose to power in Germany. This first story is set in Germany and is about Friedrich Schmidt who dreams about conducting an orchestra and loves music like his father, a cello player. Friedrich struggles to live with a birthmark that scars his face, an excuse for his schoolmates and the rising Nazi party to persecute him. Tension in his family mounts when his sister, Elizabeth, joins the Hitler Youth and becomes a loyal "Hitlerite". Friedrich, his father, and his uncle work at a harmonica factory which is where the harmonica comes into play and brings much comfort to Friedrich.
Story 2: In 1935 the Great Depression struck Pennsylvania and its residents, causing a lack of everything from clothing to money to hope. In a small boys-only orphanage, Mike and his little brother Frankie are treated cruelly by the orphanage overseer, Mrs. Pennyweather. Musically talented, Mike loves playing the piano. Their Grandmother had sent them to this particular orphanage before she died simply because there's a piano there. They are eventually adopted by a seemingly cold-hearted woman whose love and trust they struggle to earn. Frankie wants to join Hoxie's' Philadelphia Harmonica Band (it was a real band!), and he and Mike receive new harmonicas along the way, freshly imported from Germany...
Story 3: In 1942 World War II was raging, and the Japanese American citizens were being sent to special camps simply for being Japanese after the bombing of Pearl Harbour. Ivy is a Mexican American with a father who is a "bracero" (Mexican farmer working in America). Ivy struggles with yet another one of many moves as her father continues to look for better opportunities. The move to California is because of a chance Ivy's father has to care for and maintain the house of the Yamamoto family who have been sent to internment camp. Ivy is horrified to see the abuse the Yamamotos and their house have taken. She struggles with her brother being at war, her parents not accepting her musical talents, and worst of all, the new school system. In her new town, Mexican-American student segregation is a part of life. Ivy has to endure the humiliation of seeing her white friend Susan go to the "main" school while she attends the "annex", a dumpy version for Mexicans. Thankfully she finds comfort in orchestra practice and her new harmonica...
By the silken thread of destiny, a magical harmonica finds its way to a factory, an orphanage, a school, and miraculously takes the bullet meant for a person's heart.
"Your fate is not yet sealed. Even in the darkest night, a star will shine, a bell will chime, a path will be revealed."