Middle Grade Monday: Echo Mountain, by Lauren Wolk
Title: Echo Mountain
Author: Lauren Wolk
Publication Info: Listening Library, 2020. 9 hours 14 min. Hardback published 2020, Dutton Books for Young Readers, 356 pages.
Source: Library digital resources
When the Great Depression takes almost everything they own, Ellie's family is forced to leave their home in town and start over in the untamed forests of nearby Echo Mountain. Ellie has found a welcome freedom, and a love of the natural world, in her new life on the mountain. But there is little joy, even for Ellie, as her family struggles with the aftermath of an accident that has left her father in a coma. An accident unfairly blamed on Ellie.
Determined to help her father, Ellie will make her way to the top of the mountain in search of the healing secrets of a woman known only as "the hag." But the hag, and the mountain, still have many untold stories left to reveal and, with them, a fresh chance at happiness.
Echo Mountain is celebration of finding your own path and becoming your truest self. Newbery Honor- and Scott O'Dell Award-winning author Lauren Wolk weaves a stunning tale of resilience, persistence, and friendship across three generations of families, set against the rough and ragged beauty of the mountain they all call home.
This is the kind of book that sticks in your head when you finish it, leaving you to contemplate the questions raised. There are questions about who is family and where is home, and bigger questions about who our neighbors are. Possibly less obvious to the juvenile reader, but I think very intentional, Wolk also raises questions about who owns the lands we live on. In this book, the refugees from the cities seem to believe they have come to an uninhabited land, more or less, but there are others who have been living there for generations. People who have reason to resent the newcomers. Left wholly unspoken are the questions of who those earlier settlers might have displaced.
Ultimately, of course, it is a book about growing up, including the ways in which the young must, at some point in their lives, answer to their own conscience rather than that of a parent. As a parent it is a disconcerting moment when you realize that your child has his or her own worldview. Wolk makes it clear that it's not always easy or comfortable for the child, either. I enjoyed reading this with an awareness of how both mother and daughter may have felt, though of course my sympathies are, as the author intends, with the daughter (besides, I'm much more like the woods-running Ellie than her city-missing mother).
I found this, like all Wolk's books, to be a very good read. Best suited for older children--I'll recommend it for anyone about 11 and up, with no upper age limit.
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