This afternoon while staring at the beautiful piercing blue sky, my 9 year old son and I finished up listening to the last hour of the audio version of ECHO. We listened with all our heart in amazement. I am still speechless. I wiped the tears off my cheek, not just from the emotional written words spoken so perfectly but also at the finality of a book we loved so much and were committed to listening to for over nine hours was finished. I craved more. I kept the CD playing through all the credits and stared at the CD player hoping bonus tracks would begin magically, or at least one more song.
A boy in Germany. Brothers in Philly. A girl in California. All brought together by music played from the heart from one magical harmonica. It is truly enchanting. Each of the three stories is intense in its own special way and leaves you hanging till the very end. And then it is wrapped up and tied together like the perfect birthday present, except this one you want to wrap right back up and untie those bows ever so slowly again, knowing how good the gift underneath will be.
It was great to be able to explain the historical settings and stories behind each character to my son. The book gave me the opportunity to discuss Nazi Germany, adoption, the internment camps, Pearl Harbor and more in such a way that was appropriate for my son and only enough to make the book make sense to his formidable mind.
I have been a fan of Pam Munoz Ryan's for a long time. When I read THE DREAMER, I immediately got 10 copies donated to my library so I could use it for a book group that year. Since then I have used it with many other groups of students and am still amazed by the beauty of the writing and poetry in that book. I have never looked at poetry or Pablo Neruda the same. THE DREAMER is still one of my favorite book group books to use with high level third graders and fourth graders.
ECHO is going to be one of those books that I believe should be on the short list for the Newbery this year. Just getting my fifth graders to read it will be a challenge only because of the length. I will promote the Overdrive version (and CD version) heavily and tell them they will not be disappointed. Maybe it will be one of our Newbery book groups. If that's the case, I will definitely volunteer to facilitate for I would welcome the opportunity to reread it with all my heart and share this enchanted piece of literature with my students.