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I am a fifth grade teacher, always on the lookout for outstanding middle grade fiction. I read dozens (and dozens) of MG books each year so that I know just which book to put in a student's hands. Lauren Wolk has been a go-to author for book recommendations for several years now. She never talks down to 10 and 11 year olds. Her stories are complex ,and joy-filled, and heart-wrenching. Her writing is gorgeous...often stunning. Literally, her words will stop me in my tracks and make me go back and reread and ponder. I loved Beyond the Bright Sea and Wolf Hollow. Two of my favorites of the last five years. Echo Mountain though, might have moved to the top of my favorites list. It is brilliant.
For a family forced there by the Great Depression, Echo Mountain delivers a hard order of means lost and ways to be found.
The strong but struggling mother has lost her teaching job. The father, out of work as a town tailor, now must become a mountain man. There is a small boy ready to chase whatever comes next and the first-born daughter ill-suited to life without brushes, combs and clean sheets.
And then there is Ellie, the twelve-year-old girl. (Why are they always eleven or twelve?) She matches a tender heart with an unbending will to figure things out, to search, test, learn how.
Ellie’s determination to revive her father badly injured by a falling tree (an accident for which the family quietly blames her) leads her to inventive, if bizarre, treatments. Her quest eventually drives her high up the mountain into a world clouded by rumor and superstition. Yet through all the hard times come echoes of fine music put fallow, and small carvings given in mystery.
Lauren Wolk’s book is brightly lit by observations such as water cold and clear as “poured winter,” and of the people on the mountain, “looking for a way to survive until the world tipped back to well.” It’s those preceding thirteen words that best describe this enthralling story, a treasure for any age.
This is one of the best books I’ve ever read! I’ve been reading it aloud with my 9 year old son and I have to say I would love this book even on my own as an adult! My son rarely chooses to read on his own, and he’s picky about what books he’ll try, but I surprised him with this and started reading it to him and he loves it too! The plot really keeps you going. The wording is exquisite. There are powerful morals to discuss as you go along, about life and finding your inner voice. I will be buying more Lauren Wolk books for sure!
Wolk weaves an engrossing story with the Great Depression as a backdrop and tells how a family adjusts from living in the town to living in the mountains. Our protagonist is a 12 year old girl who finds herself embracing this change in pace and simply delighted by being enveloped by all of nature.
When the family suffers a setback, Ellie must step up to fill the void and finds herself...finding herself in the woods of Echo Mountain. She pushes her mother's limits; she pushes her father to come back to them; in the absence of her father, she pushes her younger brother to grow; and most importantly, she pushes herself.
This is a great story for a young girl in your life trying to find themselves and still growing to meet the expectations of those around them while also setting their own expectations for themselves and finding their path.
Wolk does an excellent job of writing a story which is pleasantly readable and serves as a great canvas for understanding how one can face adversity with grit.
That said, I felt that there were a few things which detracted from the storytelling.
First is the pacing. The first third of the book picks up quite slowly while the last two thirds seems to drive at a fever pitch. You never lose the storyline because of Wolk's writing, but the last third of the story feels a bit rushed to me. The pacing of the dialogue especially becomes jarring in some chapters.
Second is the dialogue. To me, it reads like a 21st century author writing an early 20th century character and that really took me out of the story; the lexicon and vocabulary simply didn't seem fitting for the era and for the age of the characters especially our protagonist's younger brother. At one point, a character uses the term "chameleon" and I wondered if a Depression era 12 year old daughter of a music teacher and a tailor would know what a chameleon is.
Third is the "happy coincidences" that the story weaves together. You see it coming from a mile away and when that happens, it "cheapens" the payoff when you get there.
It is otherwise still a great read and recommended for young readers, but if you are expecting a more historical take, I think you will be met with some (mild) disappointment.
I loved this book , I am drawn to stories about nature and families living close to nature. It was such a pleasure to see the success and the struggles that a family had to endure in the wilds of Maine during the depression. These characters felt so real, each was a total .person, not just a fictional characters.