After a rather lengthy blogging vacation, I'm back! My blogging hiatus helped me realize that I read too much to try to extensively review all the books I read. So, in this new, improved version of my blog, I am only going to highlight one (or maybe two, if I can't help myself) book from the previous week. I'll continue to review books on GoodReads, but here at Bibliothecary Prescriptions I'm going to really just focus on my favorite books, or maybe those that are the most thought-provoking or question-inducing. So, without further ado...
Pam Munoz Ryan's latest book, Echo, is truly magnificent. It is getting lots of Newbery buzz and was starred by School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews. Oddly, I was a little bit reluctant to read it. It is HUGE, and I mean HUGE, coming in at almost 600 pages. Generally I don't shy away from long books, but I know that many of my upper elementary student readers do. So, I didn't want to waste my time reading a book that my students won't touch simply because it is so long. Having read it, though, I now know that the trick will be convincing them that despite its heft, this is a surprisingly quick read. Once I picked it up (sitting outside in the sun, which was an astonishing thing to be able to do here in mid-coast Maine after an epic winter), I truly couldn't put it down and finished it over the course of a weekend.
Echo is a beautiful blend of fairy tale, fantasy and historical fiction. It opens and ends with a fairy tale and sandwiched in between are three different stories, all tied together by one unique harmonica. The three middle stories take place just before through just after World War II. Without giving too much away, I will only say that the voices of Friedrich, Mike and Ivy are all distinct and unique. Ryan captures something beautiful and lonely in each of them. One extraordinary, magical harmonica unites them and readers can feel, almost viscerally, how music can bring comfort even in the most desperate of situations. The end of this book - don't worry, no spoilers here - is truly brilliant, breathtaking, astonishing... all the superlatives that can be applied to a book.
I love this book. Now, my challenge as a children's librarian is to figure out how to convince my middle grade students that 600 pages is not too many when the story is this extraordinary!