A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Echo Mountain is by Lauren Wolk, the Newbery-winning author of Wolf Hollow. It's about a family in Great Depression-era Maine who lost everything and are rebuilding their lives in a rural, mountain community. Ellie, who's 12, and her family are also taking care of her father, who's in a coma after an accident. There's some scariness, mild gore, and mention of blood from injuries. She suspects a friend's black eye is from his mother but he says it was an accident. The book opens with a newborn puppy that seems dead and Ellie has to take it away to bury it, but there's a safe resolution when she's able to get it to start breathing. Ellie is a great role model for empathy, bravery, hard work, curiosity, and willingness to do whatever needs to be done. Many characters are grieving the loss of a loved one; some are mean and bitter but respond well to Ellie's kindness and understanding. Lots of positive messages about trusting yourself, not judging others, the value of hard work, doing a hard job well, community, trying new things, and always being open to learning.
What's the story?
Twelve-year-old Ellie and her family move to ECHO MOUNTAIN when her parents lose their jobs and their house in the Great Depression. Now, instead of going to the store for things they want, they've got to build their own house and hunt, make, or trade for basic necessities. An accident while chopping down a tree has left Ellie's father in a coma, so hunting, fishing, and foraging for food falls mostly to her. She's determined to help her father come out of the coma and uses her instincts and observations to try new things; things her mother and older sister do not approve of at all. She'll also learn that help can come from surprising places, like a boy who can make a knife sing, or an old hag who lives alone way up the mountain that everyone says to stay away from at all costs.
Is it any good?
Newbery honoree Lauren Wolk continues to show her tremendous talent for using simple, elegant, poetic, and moving words to paint vivid pictures of people and places. This use of language also makes it a great choice for reading aloud. Echo Mountain, like Wolf Hollow, takes us back to the Great Depression, and readers will learn a lot about some of its effects on different kinds of people.
Unlike Wolf Hollow, there's no sense of menace or dread underneath everything. Sure, there's danger, tragedy, and scares along the way, but everything ends safely, and overall the tone is light yet often profound. Ellie is a remarkable character, and readers will enjoy learning from how she learns, as Ellie comes into her own.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Echo Mountain portrays Ellie. What are her character strengths and weaknesses? Do you admire her?
What did you learn about the Great Depression from this book? Did anything surprise you? Search online or contact your library to find out more or to read more great books about that time.
Have you read any of Lauren Wolk's other books? If you have, which was your favorite? Or if you haven't, would you like to now?
- Author: Lauren Wolk
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, History
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Dutton Children's Books
- Publication date: April 21, 2020
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 13
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 4, 2020
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