Echo Mountain

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Echo Mountain Book Poster Image
Girl finds her strengths in rich, poignant Depression tale.

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Kids say

age 11+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

A simple explanation of what caused the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression, and how severely it affected everyone, even people who didn't lose all their money in the crash. What life was like in rural Maine during the Depression, including the dangers and difficulties of building a home and providing for your loved ones off the land. Some home remedies people used who couldn't afford medication, like willow bark for fever and honey as an antiseptic.

Positive Messages

Don't judge people or make assumptions about them too quickly. Be yourself and don't regret anything about yourself that makes you different. Life is a series of moments that run together too quickly to hold on to just one, or even to count them all; just be in it, like being in the rain. No need to worry about how things ought to happen; sometimes things happen out of order, but it will all work out how it was meant to in the end.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ellie is a great role model for empathy and bravery. She takes on burdens and does hard work to help and protect her family and loved ones. She feels a strong connection to nature and connects those feelings to how she relates to others. She feels stronger and happier when she's able to do something hard, and do it well. And if there's something she can do, she does it, no matter how hard. The small community of nearby farmers and homesteaders help each other with heavy jobs and by trading what they have for what they need. Many characters are coping with grief and loss in different ways, but there are no real villains.

Violence

Echo Mountain opens with a newborn puppy that seems dead; Ellie takes it to bury it but manages to wake it up. The straw where the dog gave birth is mentioned as soaked in red. Scariness and mild gore from tending injuries like a swollen eye, a badly infected animal bite, and bedsores. Blood is mentioned a few times but not described in detail. A past accident is remembered that caused Ellie's father to fall into a coma; seeing blood is mentioned as well as the fear that he might be dead. Larkin has a black eye he claims from an accident but there's some suspicion that it may have been his mother. Mention of venison being carried through the woods dripping blood. Some scariness from wild-animal encounters. Ellie describes her mixed feelings when she has to hunt or kill fish that she caught.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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.

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Teen, 13 years old Written byNeonTurtle June 17, 2020

A memorable book

Having already readon Lauren Wolk's two other popular books, Wolf Hollow and Beyond the Bright Sea, I had high expectations to begin with. I was not disapp... Continue reading

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?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age stories and strong girls

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