by Pam Munoz Ryan

Readers Theater

Book Trailer

Author Interview


Related Activities & Resources:

Author Information:
Pam Munoz Ryan homepage:

An Interview with Pam Munoz Ryan:

Pam Muñoz Ryan’s “Echo” Reverberates With Hope:

Music Activities:
Make a harmonica: (video) (written directions)

Listen to “Some Enchanted Evening” from South Pacific & watch the scene from the musical:
“Some Enchanted Evening”

Listen to some music on the piano:

Learn the piano chords:

Discover some of the classical music artists and composers:

Create some of your own instruments:

Write another story including the harmonica from the novel.

Almost all the characters meet up at Carnegie Hall. Learn about Carnegie Hall and why this was a big deal:

With friends, form your own orchestra. What instruments will you use? What songs will you perform? For whom will you perform?:

Compose your own music:

Explore sound:

Play some different songs by Rodgers and Hammerstein to the children, along with different artists performing Some Enchanted Evening:

Learn about the mouth harp (harmonica):

The Hohner harmonica company:

Play some different harmonica songs:

World War II Activities:
Design a house with a secret room for hiding valuables:

Plant a victory garden (like one from the World War II era):

Create your own war bonds. Come up with a slogan to promote their sales:

Discover what life was like in Germany during World War II:

What games did kids play in the World War II era? What was life like for kids during WW2?:

What was life like for kids in the United States during World War II?:

Discover Japan during World War II:

Kids in Japanese internment camps:

Learn about the Japanese internment camps in America. Learn about the one in Texas.

Japanese Internment Camps:

Other Activities:
Who was Echo? How do you imagine she looked? Create a drawing, painting or another piece of art depicting Echo:

Create an enchanted forest diorama. Where is Otto? Where are the three sisters?

Discussion Questions:

How does the setting of Echo change throughout each novella being told? How do the settings reflect what was going on in the world? How do these three worlds come together in the end of the novel? What part does the harmonica play in all this?

It takes Otto awhile to pass on the harmonica. Why do you think this is?

The three stories in the novel end in cliffhangers. Why do you think the author does this?  How did it affect your reading of the novel?

The relationship between Elisabeth and Friedrich is a strong one, but how does it change due to the policies Hitler places in Germany?

How does the relationship between Elisabeth and Friedrich compare with that of Ivy and her brother Fernando? What are the differences?  

How do the cultures of the characters influence their lives?  How do they preserve their families, even when values in their families change? How does our culture influence you?

Fernando sees the value of Ivy’s musical ability, yet Papa doesn’t seem to. How do these attitudes help Ivy continue developing her gifts?

Why was Friedrich so worried about his father? Why did his father keep writing to Elisabeth? Why do you think Elisabeth chose the socialists over her family? Do you think her family understood her reasons?

Mike and Frankie were brothers who wanted to be adopted together. Why was Mike so protective of Frankie? How do the brothers show their loyalty to each other and to their grandmother?

Why is Papa so protective over Mr. Yamamoto’s property? How does he successfully preserve the dignity of the Yamamoto family, while helping Mr. Pauling and Mr. Ward?

The Yamamoto family was in a Japanese Internment camp. What was an internment camp and how did it differ from the Nazi concentration camps in Hitler’s Germany?

What is Susan and Ivy’s place in all this drama? How do they help with the war effort?

What are war bonds? Why do they promote war bonds?

Mr. Ward has hard feelings toward Kenny and the Yamamoto family; how does finding out what Mr. Yamamoto hid in his house help him?  Is this a hard situation to be in? Why?  

What was Otto’s role in fulfilling the prophecy of the midwife? How did the harmonica travel around the world?

Harmonicas and other instruments were not German approved in Hitler’s Germany.  What do you imagine it would be like where certain instruments are now allowed?

Do you think internment camps, like the Japanese camps in America during World War II, could happen again in America? Why or why not?

Mike and Frankie do their best to protect each other and build each other up. Do you think this is important in relationships? Why or why not?

Mike assumes the worst and tries to run away, after overhearing a conversation. How do you think he should’ve handled that situation? What would you have done?

Do you believe that Susan’s dad is a bully, or just a man who has been hurt badly? Do you believe that Susan is afraid of her father?

Book Talk Teasers:

Read pages 49 – 53 (school bullies)  

Read pages 96 – 98 (Friedrich’s birth and epilepsy)

Read pages 242 – 250 (Mike and Frankie’s adoption)

Read Alikes:

Realistic fiction:
Smith, Tamara Ellis. Another kind of hurricane. The world, itself, seems to bring together Henry, whose best friend died near their home in the mountains of Vermont, and Zavion, who lost his home in Hurricane Katrina, so that the boys can help each other heal. (NoveList)

Stead, Rebecca. Liar & spy. Seventh-grader Georges adjusts to moving from a house to an apartment, his father’s efforts to start a new business, his mother’s extra shifts as a nurse, being picked on at school, and Safer, a boy who wants his help spying on another resident of their building. (NoveList)

Autobiographical fiction:
Lin, Grace. The year of the dog. Frustrated at her seeming lack of talent for anything, a young Taiwanese American girl sets out to apply the lessons of the Chinese Year of the Dog, those of making best friends and finding oneself, to her own life. (NoveList)

Holt, Kimberly Willis. Part of me: stories of a Louisiana family. Ten stories trace the connections between four generations of one Louisiana family from 1939 when a young girl leaves school to help support her family to 2006 when an eighty-year-old woman embarks on a book tour. (NoveList)

Graphic novel hybrids, multiple perspectives, parallel narratives:
Selznick, Brian. Wonderstruck. Having lost his mother and his hearing in a short time, twelve-year-old Ben leaves his Minnesota home in 1977 to seek the father he never knew in New York City, and meets there Rose, who is also longing for something missing from her life. Ben’s story is told in words; Rose’s in pictures. (NoveList)

Coming of Age stories, Historical fiction:
Nelson, Suzanne. Serendipity’s footsteps. “One special pair of shoes, crafted in Germany just before the Nazis came to power, makes its way through time and around the world to connect a string of owners”–. (NoveList)

Horror stories, Illustrated books, Occult fiction:
Pullman, Philip. Clockwork: or, all wound up. Long ago in Germany, a storyteller’s story and an apprentice clockwork-maker’s nightmare meet in a menacing, lifelike figure created by the strange Dr. Kalmenius. (NoveList)

Historical fiction:
Ayres, Katherine. Macaroni boy. In Pittsburgh in 1933, sixth-grader Mike Costa notices a connection between several strange occurrences, but the only way he can find out the truth about what’s happening is to be nice to the class bully. Includes historical facts. (NoveList)

Morpurgo, Michael. The Mozart question. A young journalist goes to Venice, Italy, to interview a famous violinist, who tells the story of his parents’ incarceration by the Nazis, and explains why they can no longer listen to the music of Mozart. Includes an author’s note about the Nazi Holocaust. (NoveList)

Vanderpool, Clare. Moon over Manifest. Twelve-year-old Abilene Tucker is the daughter of a drifter who, in the summer of 1936, sends her to stay with an old friend in Manifest, Kansas, where he grew up, and where she hopes to find out some things about his past. (NoveList)

Historical fiction, multiple perspectives, novels in verse:
Hesse, Karen. Witness. A series of poems express the views of various people in a small Vermont town, including a young black girl and a young Jewish girl, during the early 1920s when the Ku Klux Klan is trying to infiltrate the town. (NoveList)

Macdonald, Maryann. Odette’s secrets. When Odette Meyer’s father is sent to a Nazi work camp, her mother sends Odette from Paris to the French countryside where she must pretend to be a Catholic peasant to remain safe, while secrets burn within her. (NoveList)

Historical fiction, diary novels:
Alvarez, Julia. Before we were free. Dominican Republic of 1960, Anita de la Torre is baffled when her “best-friend cousins” suddenly leave the country for the U.S. and the secret police show up at her extended family’s compound. When her uncle disappears and her parents seem increasingly nervous and secretive, Anita begins keeping a diary to sort things out. This novel describes — from a young girl’s perspective — the bloody rule of the dictator General Trujillo and the attempts to overthrow his regime. (NoveList)

Coming of age stories, fantasy fiction:
Lisle, Holly. The silver door. When Genna is chosen as the Sunrider of prophecy, her destiny is to unite the magic of the sun and the moon for the good of both Nightlings and humans. (NoveList)

First person narrative, realistic fiction:
Urban, Linda. A crooked kind of perfect. Ten-year-old Zoe Elias, who longs to play the piano but must resign herself to learning the organ, instead, finds that her musicianship has a positive impact on her workaholic mother, her jittery father, and her school social life. (NoveList)

Classics, Epistolary novels:
Hesse, Karen. Letters from Rifka. In letters to her cousin, a young Jewish girl chronicles her family’s flight from Russia in 1919 and her own experiences when she must be left in Belgium for a while when the others emigrate to America. (NoveList)

Magical realism:
McCall, Guadalupe Garcia. Summer of the mariposas. In an adventure reminiscent of Homer’s Odyssey, fifteen-year-old Odilia and her four younger sisters embark on a journey to return a dead man to his family in Mexico, aided by La Llorona, but impeded by a witch, a warlock, chupacabras, and more. (NoveList)

Australian fiction, Historical fiction:
Matthews, P. E. Ruby of Kettle Farm. “It’s 1931, and Kettle Farm is starting to feel like home, but Ruby is still desperately worried about her dad. He hasn’t written for weeks, and nobody knows where he is. Will Dad ever come back to them? When nobody will give Ruby any answers, she sets out to find him herself … ” (NoveList)

Books to movies; Classics; Realistic fiction:
Konigsburg, E. L. From the mixed-up miles of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Claudia and her brother run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she sees a statue so beautiful, she must identify its sculptor. To find out, she must visit the statue’s former owner, the elderly Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. (NoveList)

Canadian fiction; Realistic fiction; Suspense stories:
Korman, Gordon. Chasing the Falconers. Aidan and Meg Falconers’ parents are facing life in prison unless Aidan and Meg can prove their innocence, but first they must escape from a juvenile detention center and elude both the authorities and a sinister attacker who has his own reason to stop them. (NoveList)

Book Reviews:

By Pam Munoz Ryan. Read by Mark Bramhall and others.
2015. 10.5hr. Scholastic, CD, $39.99 (9780545788366). Gr. 5–8.
First published October 15, 2015 (Booklist).

The story of three children from different historical periods is framed by the folktale of Otto, a boy who gets lost in the woods and is returned by three sisters staying at a witch’s house under a curse. Otto shows his appreciation for rescue by carrying their spirits inside a magical harmonica. If the harmonica can save three people’s lives, the sisters will be set free. Otto’s harmonica mysteriously makes it into the hands of Friedrich during Nazi Germany, Mike during the Great Depression, and Ivy during WWII. The narrators’ accents and pacing accurately display their characters’ places of origin and style of speech and dramatize their resourcefulness. Bramhall’s folksy storytelling adds magic. David De Vries captures Friedrich immersed in his music and snapping into the reality of Nazi occupation. MacLeod Andrews differentiates Mike’s and Frankie’s ages with his pacing and pitch. Ivy’s feelings are expressed by Rebecca Soler’s pacing and emotive dialogue. Haunting piano and harmonica music, written and performed by Corky Siegel, permeates the story. Rachel Reinwald

Horn Book:
by Pam Muñoz Ryan; illus. by Dinara Mirtalipova
Intermediate, Middle School Scholastic     590 pp.
2/15     978-0-439-87402-1 $19.99     g
e-book ed. 978-0-545-57650-5 $19.99

Lost in the forest, a boy is mesmerized by a story about three princesses trapped under a witch’s spell until they save a life through a special harmonica. This story within a story is prelude to a set of three more: young Friedrich, working in a harmonica factory in 1933 Germany, watches as his sister joins the Hitler Youth and his father endangers the family by speaking out against the Nazis, sending Friedrich on a desperate plan of rescue. Two orphaned brothers with musical talent in 1935 Pennsylvania struggle to   stay together, resting their hopes on a rich widow and a traveling harmonica band. In 1942 California, Ivy Lopez’s family takes over the farm of an interned Japanese family, where Ivy finds herself for the first time in a segregated school. She strives to bring three families together—white, Latino, and Japanese American—who all have sons in the armed forces. Ryan fluidly builds setting, character, and drama for each story and then leaves each on a knife’s edge; the expected yet compelling epilogue winds all stories together, on one splendid postwar night at Carnegie Hall. The harmonica and the love of music serve as the unifying threads for these tales of young people who save the lives and spirits of their families and neighbors, each in a time marked by bigotry and violence. It’s an ambitious device, but Ryan’s storytelling prowess and vivid voice lead readers expertly through a hefty tome illuminated by layers of history, adventure, and the seemingly magical but ultimately very human spirit of music. NINA LINDSAY
(March/April 2015 Horn Book Magazine)

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

The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books:
Ryan, Pam Muñoz. Echo. Scholastic, 2015. hb 978043987402, ebook 9780545576505,
audio 9780545788366 & 9780545788373

In the nineteenth century, a young boy, Otto Messenger, buys a book from a gypsy and finds himself involved in the strange, unfinished tale within its pages. Lost in the woods, he meets the three cursed women of the story, who tie their fate to the harmonica the gypsy gave him with the book. The enchanted harmonica travels: in 1933 in Germany, young Friedrich Schmidt, bullied away from his school because of his facial birthmark and his obsession with conducting music only he can hear, works at a harmonica factory before his father is sent to a re-education camp for consorting with Jews and playing music the Führer finds vulgar. In 1935 in Philadelphia, two orphaned boys are adopted by a grieving woman according to the terms of her father’s will, but a misunderstanding prompts the older boy to set his sights on joining Albert Hoxie’s Philadelphia Harmonica Band. In 1942 in California, Ivy Maria Lopez is crushed when her father moves the family to a new farm to act as caretaker while its Japanese owners are relocated to an internment camp, requiring her to leave her music program behind. In the hands of each new owner, the harmonica brings hope, beauty and joy to those who hear it, but it isn’t until Ivy gives it to Kenny Yamamoto that it completes its destiny, and Otto’s book is finally finished. Ryan’s ingenious plotting harmonizes as sweetly as the famed mouth harp itself, and her eloquent prose breathes life and energy into likable characters whose stories are individually compelling and historically resonant as it treats elements such as the forced sterilization of “defective” Germans, the practice of farming out teen orphans for wage work, the existence of a professional harmonica band, and segregated schools in California. The embellishment of fantasy lightens without trivializing the history; instead, it traces a thread of hope and indomitable human spirit through dark times. Each extended episode has its own theme song from the period, with instructions on how to play it on a harmonica; lots of scope for imaginative programming here. Review Code: R* — Recommended. Grades 6-9. Karen Coats (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, March 2015 (Vol. 68, No. 7))