Pam Muñoz Ryan, the author of Esperanza Rising, writes another hit novel with Echo. The book tells four stories weaved together by a magical harmonica.
The book begins and ends with three fairy-tale princesses and a lost boy named Otto. Otto wanders into the woods during a game of hide-and-seek. There he meets three princesses. He is surprised because they are in the book he has been reading. Otto begins to read the book to the princesses. He soon discovers the end of the book he is reading is blank. The princesses tell Otto he must write the ending. They also give him a magical harmonica with instructions to pass it along when the time is right.
One day twelve-year-old Fredrich finds the magical harmonica in an abandoned storage room at his uncle’s harmonica factory. Fredrich lives in Germany during Hitler’s control. Fredrich stands out from the other youth because a large birthmark covers his face. Also, his behavior disturbs his peers. Fredrich hears music inside his head. He waves his arms conducting an orchestra that only he can see and hear. Can the magical harmonica keep Fredrich’s family together in a time when Hitler is sending undesirables away?
Eleven-year-old Mike Flannery lives in the Bishop’s Home for Friendless and Destitute Children in Pennsylvania during the depths of the Great Depression. The wealthy Mrs. Sturbridge wishes to adopt an orphan. Because of their musical talent, Mike and his younger brother, Frankie, are taken to her home for a visit. Mike learns that Mrs. Sturbridge will only adopt one orphan. Mike tries to figure out a way to support himself, so Frankie can be the one adopted. One day Mike sees the magical harmonica in the window of a drug store. He purchases the harmonica hoping that he can become good enough at playing it to earn a spot in a traveling harmonica band for boys. Will the magic be enough to help Mike and Frankie out of their difficult situation?
Finally, Ivy Lopez comes into possession of the harmonica. Her family moves to a migrant farm in Orange County, California. Her father takes a job as overseer for the Yamamoto’s farm. Because the Yamamotos are a Japanese-American family, they have been sent to an internment camp following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Will the harmonica help Ivy from the discrimination her family deals with by working for the Yamamotos?
What do the three stories have in common besides the harmonica? What does the fairy tale have to do with the rest of the novel? Read ECHO to answer these questions.
Teaching Ideas for the Book
Interview Pam Muñoz Ryan
Compare and Contrast Activities
Because ECHO is four-books-in-one, it is perfect to teach students compare and contrast skills. This free set of organizers do not include specific questions or titles, so they may be used in many ways.
Students can compare and contrast different characters, settings, or plots within the book ECHO. They can also compare and contrast different books written by Pam Muñoz Ryan. For example, Esperanza Rising and Part 3 of ECHO both center around migrant workers. Students can even use some of the organizers to compare fictional stories to their nonfictional counterparts.
ECHO on the Web
Scholastic provides several free resources for this novel including some author information and discussion questions.
ECHO Book Unit
- Vocabulary Practice for the Prologue
- Comprehension Questions for the Prologue
- Constructed Response Question – The Chants
- Constructed Response Question – Setting
- Photos to Show What the Rest of the Unit Looks Like