Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

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stars echo

For a few hours, Echo healed my cynical heart with pure hope. Beautifully written and compelling, what I will call an historical fairy tale – with all the hardships that come with it – enchanted me from the very first page, and my interest never wavered : Friedrich, Mike, Frankie, Ivy… They all earned a little place in my heart.

Mrs. Potter said you were a kind and loving soul, underneath all the rest. I guess that means your heart’s so sad that it’s hard to get out from under the weight. When I was sad about my mother dying, Granny used to say grief is the heaviest thing to carry alone. So I know all about that.

One might say that these stories are not free of some kind of simplistic resolution (and I agree), but in my opinion the novel’s worth lies elsewhere : in the heartwarming and hopeful messages that music can bring people together and that we all can find the place where we belong, no matter how different we think we are, no matter how intolerant our contemporaries are being, no matter how ridiculous and selfish people can be.

As it turns out, I shouldn’t have worried about the age target. If I could see straight away that the story was aimed at children, I think that there’s a reason we adults come back to fairy tales sometimes. As much as I love my Dark Fantasy novels, as much as I complain about the intolerant comments I see every day on social medias, there’s a part of me that needs to believe. I wouldn’t be a teacher if I didn’t hope for the future to be more open-minded, more accepting, less scared of differences.

Their hearts hurt. people who used to be friends are no longer friends. Neighbors are not neighbors. During a war, people feel they must blame and take sides. Hearts grow smaller.

Beware, though : by revisiting harsh parts of our history, Echo doesn’t shy away from heartbreak, and I won’t lie, it was hard to read at times. Indeed the characters are faced with racism, extreme poverty, war. However, as I said earlier, despite the difficult and heart-wrenching situations the characters must get through, in the end, I felt so very hopeful, and that feeling, right there? It’s everything. 

Everyone needs to believe in a better world once in a while, to let a bright day overtake the clouds of ignorance.

Now I’ll patiently wait for someone to translate Echo in French to throw it into my pupils’ hands.

…and every night as they lay in their beds wondering what joy tomorrow might bring yet knowing how precarious life can be… They repeated the words “Your fate is not yet sealed, even in the darkest night a star will shine, a bell will chime, a path will be revealed…” 

PS. I’m rating this book according to its age rank.

TW – War, death of parents, racism

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