**spoiler alert** It is Memorial Day, a fitting day to review Echo. Echo blends three stories into one. Each story is a traditional hero story, with e**spoiler alert** It is Memorial Day, a fitting day to review Echo. Echo blends three stories into one. Each story is a traditional hero story, with each child overcoming prejudice and adversity. The three stories a tied together by a fairytale like curse, a magical harmonica, and music. The period of time is pre-World War II and World War II, a time period in which it is relatively easy to set a good versus evil story.
What was refreshing about this book was how Munoz Ryan focused on less discussed elements of history, stories that young people may not know. In the first story, Frederick faced sterialization or death because of a birth mark. His father was taken away because of his support of a Jewish friend. While students may know of the plight of the Jews in WW II, they may not know the full extent of Hitler's atrocities.
The second story focuses on the impact of the Great Depression in the United States. Two brothers try to stay together. The oldest one faces being farmed out as a child laborer and the younger one faces being sent to a place similar to a penal colony. The evils of indifference and corruption are contrasted with involvement, caring, and goodness.
In the final story, prejudice at home during WW II is explored. Ivy, a young Hispanic girl whose brother is serving in WW II faces discrimination at home. Her family cares for the property of a Japanese family while they are interned. A neighboring white man struggles with his feelings regarding the Japanese family when his son is killed at Pearl Harbor. This story does a good job of exploring how decisions like the internment of the Japanese were based on fear and emotion. It could easily lead to conversations about what causes countries to make choices like segregation and internment.
Some of the criticisms of the book have been that the stories are too trite. Adults are familiar with this material, but I think that most kids are not, so I believe the tales will not be seen as simplistic to their target audience. The book is written as a modern day fairytale, and as such, it does a good job. We know it is a fairytale from the start and therefore, it is no great surprise when Munoz Ryan delivers the happy ending.
Although it is a bit long, this is a great choice for upper elementary book clubs and read-a-louds. Parents will enjoy reading this book alongside their children. Homeschool parents may wish to incorporate this into a lesson on the history of the early 1900's. It won't surprise me if this book wins one of the top children's literature awards for books published in 2015. ...more
A moving and beautiful picture book with no words. I find clowns to be creepy sometimes but this is not the case in this simple story of an old farmerA moving and beautiful picture book with no words. I find clowns to be creepy sometimes but this is not the case in this simple story of an old farmer who cares for a stranded young clown....more
Today is President's Day, the perfect day to read a story about a little known patriot. Christoper Ludwick, a gingerbread baker from Philadelphia, offToday is President's Day, the perfect day to read a story about a little known patriot. Christoper Ludwick, a gingerbread baker from Philadelphia, offered his assistance to George Washington and became the Baker General for Continental Army. Put in charge of captured Hessian prisoners, he converted many to the American cause. He also infiltrated the Hessian ranks and encouraged many to desert. After the war he continued his good works. He gave away food during Philadelphia's Yellow Fever Epidemic and paid for schooling for children before the days of public schools. When he died, he left his money to pay for schooling for poor children in Philadelphia. His foundation continues his good works to this day. All of this information is found in the afterward, which is perhaps the most interesting part of the book from an adult's perspective.
The story itself, however, also has strong appeal. It illustrations are inspired by gingerbread cookies, but are more colorful and bold. The text focuses on key emotions that children will quickly grasp. The moral messages of seeing your enemy for who they truly are (the Hessians were hungry men) being generous, the importance of the individual, and being kind even towards your enemy are strong without being preachy.
This book should be embraced by lower elementary school teachers who want a fun way to introduce the revolutionary war to students. (A recipe for gingerbread cookies accompanies the book and baking could be combined with the reading of the book.) The common refrain of "No empty bellies here, not in my America", makes this a great book to use during school's annual food drives. Religious organizations who use secular books to teach moral and religious messages may also find this book a great addition to their curriculum. ...more
I listened to the audiobook and wasn't thrilled with the accents and intonation (was it vocal fry?) given to the characters. I found that to be a majoI listened to the audiobook and wasn't thrilled with the accents and intonation (was it vocal fry?) given to the characters. I found that to be a major distraction from the story. But, I was quickly captivated by the storyline. Kestrel, the general's daughter, falls in love with her slave and begins to question her nation's practices of conquering "barbarians", dominating the world, and enslaving others. Her kindness to slaves and her desires to be free from society's restrictions causes her to be out of step with her peers and a bit on the outside of society even though society must accept her because of her father's position.
Kestrel is a warrior girl, and while she can fight, her true strength is her quick intelligence, and her ability to carefully choose wonderful friends, and her ability to strategize. The winner's curse, a condition in which you get what you want, but you find that you have paid too high a price for it, figures throughout the story.
I believe this is a good choice for readers 16 and up. There is a scene of an attempted rape, poisoning, and killing. There are innuendo about the conquerors doing what they want sexually with their slaves. None of this is gratuitous, and is important content if one compares this novel to the true story of real empires, but some may find this objectionable for younger readers. ...more