At the beginning of Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan (Lexile: 680; Interest Level: Grades 4-8), we find a boy named Otto going into the woods with a book and a harmonica during a game of hide and seek. There he meets 3 mysterious sisters, whose story he was reading in his book, but no one believes his encounter.
Then the story shifts to that of Friedrich, a boy in Germany at the beginning of World War II. Friedrich wants to be an orchestra conductor, but the large birthmark on his face caused him to be bullied so much he had to leave school and begin working at the harmonica factory with his father. When his father was arrested, Friedrich had to figure out a way to save him.
Our story shifts again to Pennsylvania where we meet Michael, a piano prodigy, and his little brother Frankie, who needed to be adopted by a loving family. In order to get Frankie a home he would love, Michael made a deal with a possible adoptive mother that if she kept Frankie, he would join a harmonica band. In fear that the possible mother would back out, Michael needed to come up with a new plan.
A few years later, Ivy Maria attended a school in California for migrant children where she has finally made friends and was going to play a harmonica solo on the radio. Her family moved to a more stable job just before her solo, and she found it difficult to adjust to the segregation she experienced at her new school, which was complicated by the fact that her father was managing a farm for a Japanese family while they were forced to stay at an internment camp.
All four of these stories merge together in a very powerful way that is unpredictable. I was enthralled all the way through this book, which I think will appeal to everyone who is interested in World War II, music, and Pam Munoz Ryan's other works! This is possibly my favorite of the 2015-2016 Indian Paintbrush Nominees! (592 p.)
One of the reasons I became an elementary school librarian is so I can read children's books.