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Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan: Recommended Read for Teens

The award-winning Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan gets high praise from our reviewers.

PARENT REVIEW | By Jessica Lahey

While Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan is a sublime read on paper, it becomes much more resonant in audio form. Finn and I both read Echo in hardcover and enjoyed it. But when I listened to the book on a recent road trip, I was absolutely transported.

Echo is a tale told through multiple narrative. The audio version allows the listener to experience these narratives through the voices of Mark Bramhall, David de Vries, Andrews MacLeod, and Rebecca Soler. Each voice represents a different character and brings the story to life in a way I had not experienced on paper.

The plot of Echo is not simply told through words, however. And this is where the audio version really shines. Echo is musical. It is the story of how music transcends words or action, how melody and harmony blend to elevate the mundane to the extraordinary. The music of Echo‘s narrative, brought to life in the audiobook by Corky Seigel, serves to push the music to the fore, to center stage, where it rightly belongs.

Echo is made up of multiple narratives, melodies that weave together into an orchestral whole. The background thrum of history supports the entire work. And, as is so often the case with a great work of literature, the sum of these parts results in a much greater whole.

Echo by Pam Muñoz RyanPam Muñoz Ryan is a gifted storyteller. She has written over 40 books, including one of my all-time favorites, Esperanza Rising. She has won just about every award available in the world of literature. Echo has received multiple well-deserved awards, including a 2016 Newbery Honor.

Echo would make for a lovely cross-curricular bridge between language arts and history, one way to make the distant historical events of World War II and the rise of the Nazi party in Germany relevant to a new generation of readers. Echo is ideal for middle-grade, tween, and younger teen readers. And while the book is hefty—nearly 600 pages long—the wide margins and large font are inviting and comforting.

Echo is more than just a good read; it’s an allegory about what it means to be human when we seem dead set on killing each other. Echo reminds us of our past. It reminds us of our collective rights and wrongs, and the power of music to transcend pain and injustice. It reinforces the bonds that hold all of us together as humans—across cultures, religion, time, and space.

Jessica Lahey is a teacher, writer, and mother of two teens.


TEEN REVIEW | By Finn Lahey

I really liked Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan. It had a very compelling writing style and structure. I enjoyed reading each section and left each part with curiosity, wondering what the next section would have to offer.

In Echo, each interconnecting story is one of a three-part whole. Through the three different stories and the four main characters, the reveal of each subplot heightens the anticipation for the next part of the story.

Music and its ability to define our outlook on life continues as a theme from story to story, passed down like the history of the main character’s harmonica and its journey from person to person.

Although I did enjoy the overall feel of the book and its wonderful storytelling, I was, at the beginning, rather skeptical of how the story would weave together. The three stories seemed only vaguely connected, and they only came together in the end.

Even though the actual story revolves around a harmonica, there are many other instruments involved. At first, the instruments are almost shoehorned into the story, but then they become part of a whole. The characters, in the end, learn to master their instruments and work together to create a synchronized melody.

I particularly enjoyed the fairy tale-esque, wandering story of where the harmonica came from and its magical powers. As the rest of the book was detailed and all set in reality, the whimsical, magic-based world provided a lighter background to an increasingly dark world in the midst of World War II.

I thought the book was very interesting and worth reading. I would totally suggest it to others. If you think you might enjoy a book that has a serious plot, with sweet, whimsical undertones, give it a read.

Finn Lahey is a seventh grader in New Hampshire.

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Jessica Lahey

Jessica Lahey is a frequent contributor to The New York Times and The Atlantic and author of The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed. Find out more at jessicalahey.com.