Last week I was taken across two continents tracing a M.Hohner harmonica in a work by Pam Ryan, entitled “Echo.” A novel that incorporated the “pay it forward” mentality infused with social issues that minority cultures have faced across the globe. This was a very borderline young adult novel. What I mean by this is the themes in the book were catered towards juveniles at some turns, and other times it was in fact, a work of young adult literature. It has been categorized as both for juveniles and young adults. The historical context and some of the themes in the work were definitely suited for young adults, but there were juvenile tropes in most places.
The book starts out with a German Folk Tale and the acquisition of a harmonic by Otto. In order for Otto to save three young girls trapped in a time warp (due to a spell from a witch), he has to give his harmonica to someone in need. He reaches out through the hands of time where the harmonica is given to Friedrich. Friedrich is a young German boy living in Germany during the rise of the Nazi regime. Friedrich, too, pays it forward by boxing the harmonica up and shipping it to America. He sends the harmonica away because he knows the Nazi regime will confiscate valuables. The harmonica finds its way to Michael, who lives in an orphanage in Philadelphia with his brother, Franklin. The trend continues as Michael donates the harmonica to a collection box. The last destination for the harmonica is Ivy, a Mexican-American girl living in California.
The book was rooted in the power of music. Each of the three characters is inspired by the mystical sound of this mysterious harmonica. Each character is placed in a dire situation, and the harmonica and its music helps them to cope with their paramount struggles. This is a great book for anyone who finds solace in music, and the ability for musical notes to transcend differences. The harmonica gives each one of these characters a voice, a voice they would not have without it. All three characters are minorities making this book applicable to social justice issues everywhere. Each character of this book carries their own determination due to the power given them by the harmonica. This is a feel good story that helps everyone recognize the cruelties of power structures. Despite these power structures, nothing can rise above our ability to share and make music.