Lisa A. Kramer

Author, Speaker, Theater Artist, Creativity Facilitator

When Words Sing: A Review of ECHO by Pam Muñoz Ryan

I close the book with tears in my eyes. Tears of joy and hope, because of a story that comes full circle. Tears of sadness and fear, because the words of historical fiction too closely reflect similar word being spouted as political rhetoric today. Aching tears because of the beauty of words blended together in a song of perfection--the type I yearn to be able to write myself, but fear I never will. Tears of disappointment because it is over.

There are only two things that frustrate me about this book. One, is that I want to hear the music playing . . . I am tempted to get an audio version for just that reason. At the same time, I can already hear it in my head, so maybe that doesn't matter. Ryan has the power of making music with her words.

The second frustration has less to do with the book, and more to do with this system of labeling books that I have moaned about in the past. I stumbled upon this wonderful piece of literature in the children's section of the library. It is labeled as middle grade historical fiction, and I understand that. However, just like all labels--I believe it does this book a disservice. Of course, middle grade should read and be inspired by this story . . . but adults should also read it as a reminder of what we have to lose if we let hate, bias, prejudice, and fear rule our decision-making.

This story, which begins with a fairy tale, takes us (through the thread of destiny represented by a harmonica) to the beginnings of World War II. This is the Facebook post I wrote as I read that first section:


From there we move to the United States, where two orphan boys suffer from poverty and the looming threat of war, and from a world that puts financial gain ahead of the needs of children. Then we move to California, where, through the story of a young girl we see what happens when people are segregated because of the color of their skin, or worse thrown into camps because they are considered "the enemy."

This is all history. This is all reality. What makes me cry though . . . is that this is also all possibility.

This book should be read by all.

Then everyone who can, should vote.