Echo Summary

Pam Munoz Ryan


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Echo Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan.

Echo is Pam Munoz Ryan’s 2015 novel about Otto, a young boy who wanders into the forest and becomes lost. There he meets three princesses who ask him to read the end of their story to them, but he cannot.

As the story opens, Otto is playing a game with Matildhe. He hides in the woods and begins reading a book about a boy with the same name as he has. When he looks up from the story, he realizes that he has been in the woods a very long time, and he is unable to find his way back home.

He comes upon three princesses. They tell him their names are Ein, Zwei, and Drei, which mean “one,” “two,” and “three.” They tell him that their father, the king, so desperately wanted a boy that they were given to a wicked witch and abandoned. They notice his book, and beg him to read the ending so they will know what happens, but there are no more words after the day they all meet.

They give him a magic harmonica with instructions to pass it along when it is time. Otto makes his way out of the forest and back to his home, but no one believes his story. He grows up and marries the girl, Matildhe, and they have a daughter. One day, their daughter needs medical attention he cannot afford. He gets a job making harmonicas, and when his dog tears up the one he is working on, he passes along the magical harmonica given to him by the princesses in its place.

The harmonica ends up in a factory where the young man, Frederich, works. Frederich is a brilliant musician; he finds the harmonica in an old storage room. He has a birthmark on his face that earns him the nickname “monster boy,” Other students at his school bully him. Around this time, Hitler is rising to power, and the situation is becoming more dangerous for Frederich and his family.

One day, his father is arrested, and he and his sister, Elisabeth, manage to pay the money for his release. As they leave, Frederich remembers that he cannot take anything of value with him, so he polishes the harmonica and places it back in the box to be sent to America. He and his family escape Germany successfully.

The harmonica ends up in a music store in America. A woman who lost her child is adopting Mike Flannery and his younger brother, Frankie. A family friend buys the boys two harmonicas, and he chooses Otto’s. He believes that if he can secure a position in a harmonica band, the woman will keep Frankie and the two of them will be secure. He is successful, and his home turns out to be everything he hoped for. He passes the harmonica along to a group of school children as a donation and focuses on piano.

The next person to get the harmonica is a girl named Ivy. Her parents are farmers, and they have moved to watch over the farm of the Yamamotos while they are in the internment camps. Ivy is a gifted musician, and she earns a place in the school band. Kenny arrives home for a brief visit, and Ivy gives him the harmonica. They experience a situation, and the harmonica ends up deflecting a bullet that would have killed him.

When this happens, the spell over the princesses is lifted, and they are reunited with their mother. Friederich becomes a famous conductor. Mike becomes a renowned pianist, and Ivy becomes an accomplished flute player. They all appear on stage together one night at Carnegie Hall rounding out their dreams. The harmonica connected them through time and space.

For each of the characters, music plays an important role in helping them deal with the sometimes-terrible situations thrust upon them. World War II affects them all, and while they go through their obstacles, the stress of war hovers over them. It is a difficult time for each of them, and the harmonica has the power to help them through what is happening.

The story is also in part about a sense of belonging in a world that does not readily accept differences. Frederich is a disfigured outcast; the world does not recognize his incredible talent as a musician. As he conducts music that only he hears, he is further ostracized until he is forced to flee from his home as the war progresses. Mike and Frankie are vulnerable orphans who do not believe that their new home will offer them the security they need. As such, they search for something to assuage their feelings of anxiety about their home life. Ivy is a migrant worker’s child at a time when race is dividing American life. She is not accepted by those in her town either.

With the influence of the harmonica, they all realize their dreams of music and come together as adults to play on the same stage. Through their stories, we understand that although obstacles exist, there are ways to overcome them, and something as powerful as music can bind people who are very different from each other.

The story is four tales woven into one, and as we read each, we find ourselves identifying with the stories of these young people. We find music to be a potent factor, one that can help us understand each other, and help us make sense of the human experience.