Goodreads Summary: Lost and alone in a forbidden forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica.
Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each, in turn, become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. And ultimately, pulled by the invisible thread of destiny, their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo.
My thoughts: This was a hard read for me. I’m not really sure if I can explain without giving away too much information. This is also a hard review for me to write because I love Pam Munoz Ryan and it doesn’t feel right to not give her a 5 star review.
The book is very well written. It would be excellent for a unit on historical fiction and racism in particular. But I felt that it sets the reader up for disappointment. In fact at times I was so disappointed in the story line that I almost gave up on the book. And I feel that my students would have the same problem. I really felt invested in the main characters and when it seemed as though all was going to go wrong for each of them it was almost too depressing to bear. As an adult, I know that not all stories are happy. Real life often doesn’t have a happy ending. And to be fair, the time period that Ryan is writing about is a time when there were a lot of unhappy endings. It just didn’t seem fair for each of them to seemingly have hope taken away.
Hopefully, I’m not giving too much away when I say that the stories do turn around. If the reader sticks with the book all the way to the end the story isn’t as bleak as you might think at first.
As I look back over this review, I realize that my thoughts are rather jumbled. Jumbled is what I felt when I finished the book. I’ve not yet decided if I will purchase this book for my school library. Amazon recommends it for grades 5-9, but I’m not sure it would be a good fit for my 5th graders.