EchoBook - 2015
From the critics
Age SuitabilityAdd Age Suitability
blue_dog_20608 thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 10 and 90
QuotesAdd a Quote
"Your fate is not yet sealed.
Even in the darkest night, a star will shine,
a bell will chime, a path will be revealed."
“Music does not have a race or a disposition!
... Every instrument has a voice that contributes. Music is a universal language...Music surpasses all distinctions between people.”
“A weight pressed on his heart. How could he want something and fear it so much at the same time?”
“Mrs. Potter said you were a kind and loving soul, underneath all the rest. I guess that means your heart's so sad that it's hard to get out from under the weight. When I was sad about my mother dying, Granny used to say grief is the heaviest thing to carry alone. So I know all about that."
“She said people on hard times deserved to have beauty in their lives as much as anyone else, whether or not they could pay their rent or were walking to a breadline. Granny said that just because someone was poor didn't mean they were poor of heart.”
SummaryAdd a Summary
It starts with a little boy, Otto, in the 1860s. To while away the time while playing hide-and-seek, he pulls open a book he bought from a Gypsy, "The Thirteenth Harmonica of Otto Messenger." By the time he's come to the end, the game is over and he's hopelessly lost -- until the princesses of the tale appear and ask him to read the tale to them. It's the first time you come across its strange rhyming prophecy, and you know more is to come, because the rest of the pages are still blank.
Now, it helps to know that a harmonica is a wind instrument, made by blowing air across a wooden reed, making it a "woodwind," as opposed to a "horn" -- like a trumpet or French horn. It is also often referred to as a "harp," sometimes a "French harp" or a "mouth organ." But make no mistake, it's not a stringed harp, nor is it an organ, with keys that hit pipes and use air to project the notes and are (mostly) played in churches.
Otto, the little boy, has a harmonica in his pocket, as well as the book, as he's reading to the princesses. Now, harmonicas were invented in the 1820s, so this would have been a relatively inexpensive, compact and sturdy instrument for a child to have, compared to others like a violin.
Each princess plays it, and their spirits are taken out of the enchanted place and transferred to the harmonica.
Just from this you can decipher most, if not all, of the prophecy, but how it plays out, across three lifetimes, is an amazing tale.
Friedrich Schmidt loses everything on the eve of WWII in Germany -- his big sister, Elisabeth, his father who played cello and worked in the harmonica factory with his Uncle Gunter -- in order for the harmonica to end up, purchased and packed off to it's next owner...
Mike Flannery and his little brother, Frankie, in The Bishop's Home for Friendless and Destitute Children in the US, where they play piano and impress Mr. Golding, who takes the boys from the orphanage so they can become wards of Mrs. Sturbridge, who needs to adopt one of them to fulfill the terms of her father's will and inherit his fortune.
Mike quickly susses out that she's not interested in adopting him, so he formulates a plan -- to purchase a harmonica from a catalog, learn to play it and run away and join the Philadelphia Harmonica Band for boys ages 9 to 14. When he plays it, he hears echos of a cello, but he masters the instrument, practicing hard and even winning a spot in the band.
But as he's running away, on the way out, he falls from a tree, and the story moves on to ...
Ivy Maria Lopez, who lives outside Fresno and plays harmonica and has to move when her father loses his job about a year into the United States' involvement in WWII. He takes a new job nearer Los Angeles as caretaker of a farm and property of an Asian-American farmer, a Mr. Yamamoto, after he's been rounded up and placed in a Japanese internment camp.
She and her family fight an attempt by a neighboring land owner to take over the property, by discovering Mr. Yamamoto's secret room of musical instruments.
When the neighbor's son is shipped off to WWII, Ivy hands him the harmonica, and it passes to...
I won't spoil the ending, but it is an amazing example of a denouement that brings all the strings of the tale together in an amazing weave of story and poignant emotion and music, so much beautiful music.
And the princesses? Are they ever set free?
Read, enjoy, and find out how it ends!
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