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Echo Hardcover – February 24, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—"Long before enchantment was eclipsed by doubt," a young boy named Otto lost in the woods is rescued by three sisters imprisoned there by a witch's curse. In return, he promises to help break the curse by carrying their spirits out of the forest in a mouth harp and passing the instrument along when the time is right. The narrative shifts to the 20th century, when the same mouth harp (aka harmonica) becomes the tangible thread that connects the stories of three children: Friedrich, a disfigured outcast; Mike, an impoverished orphan; and Ivy, an itinerant farmer's child. Their personal struggles are set against some of the darkest eras in human history: Friedrich, the rise of Nazi Germany; Mike, the Great Depression; Ivy, World War II. The children are linked by musical talent and the hand of fate that brings Otto's harmonica into their lives. Each recognizes something unusual about the instrument, not only its sound but its power to fill them with courage and hope. Friedrich, Mike, and Ivy are brought together by music and destiny in an emotionally triumphant conclusion at New York's Carnegie Hall. Meticulous historical detail and masterful storytelling frame the larger history, while the story of Otto and the cursed sisters honor timeless and traditional folktales. Ryan has created three contemporary characters who, through faith and perseverance, write their own happy endings, inspiring readers to believe they can do the same.—Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY
New York Times Notable Book
Publishers Weekly Best Book
ILA Notable Book for a Global Society
ALA Notable Children's Book
*The story of Otto and the cursed sisters honor timeless and traditional folktales [and] Ryan has created three contemporary characters who, through faith and perseverance, write their own happy endings, inspiring readers to believe they can do the same.” --School Library Journal, starred review
*A grand narrative that examines the power of music to inspire beauty in a world overrun with fear and intolerance, it's worth every moment of readers' time.” --Kirkus, starred review
*Each individual story is engaging, but together they harmonize to create a thrilling whole.” --Publishers Weekly, starred review
A masterpiece.” --Christopher Paul Curtis, author of Newbery Medal-winning Bud, Not Buddy
Daring and beautiful.” --Linda Sue Park, author of Newbery Medal-winning A Single Shard
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Top Customer Reviews
The Echo is similar in style to its predecessor: dark, atmospheric, paced, and tense. However, the voice of the main character in The Echo - Mira, a Swedish scientist - is distinct and very different from the first book, whose main character was a journalist. Mira has a twin, Tomas, with whom he has competed and collaborated with his entire life, yet Mira is the one who goes into space while Tomas stays at mission control on Earth, and has remote access to everything on the ship. There is a perceived power-struggle, and we can never be sure when Mira is being paranoid or when Tomas is actually exerting too much control. Since we're only in Mira's head, we are awash with his emotions and self-doubt, and the internal struggles of this character are inexorably linked with the flow of the story.
Though The Echo is sci-fi, it is not a fun, raucous romp through space. It's a deep dive into the psyche of the main character, and even the side characters. Sure, there's escapism: they're flying a spaceship into the depths of the solar system to investigate an unexplained anomaly. But this is not a floor-you-with-action kind of book. It's measured and intense. In a world where the flashiest science fiction is becoming increasingly more mainstream (particularly in the movie industry), this kind of novel is refreshing, even if it is so dark. Smythe clearly values depth of character over plot - though don't get me wrong, because the plot definitely does not come up short. I can only imagine the kinds of diagrams it would take to design such a twisting, overlapping plot such as this (or that of The Explorer as well). So if you love time-jumping plots, then sure, go for it. Or if you're like me and dare to read both genre fiction as well as that one L-word (*cough*literature*cough*), give Smythe a try and you won't be disappointed.