Duet, Echo, and Loyalty are one word titled books providing images in their different genres immediately from their short titles. These middle grade books share universal values of trueheartedness that appeal to all ages without cliches. Each author experimented in the writing of them which causes the books to reach new heights.
Duet by Elise Broach begin with a female goldfinch as the narrator. Animal stories are not my favorite type of book to choose. (In fact, I just put down Katherine Applegate’s book about Bob.)I know they appeal to this audience, but they are not my first choice. Mirabelle captured my attention right away when she shares why we all love finches. “Just seeing me–even for a split second, half hidden by leaves, a glimpse of that bright flashing yellow–well, I promise you, it is guaranteed to make you smile.” How true. This personification drew me into the story. Besides her bright color, subtler than her brothers’, what mira bell wants to be known for is her voice, her singing. her narrator’s voice is amazing.
Can you imagine the duet between a young male pianist and Mirabelle who becomes his muse? Elise Broach teaches all her characters, animals and humans about love, loyalty, and the classical compositions of Chopin. Those ideals seem like too much in one short novel, but Broach makes the story work.
Speaking of loyalty, Avi has written another historical novel, this time about the origins of the American Revolution. His experimental writing shows us a British Whig family in Massachusetts being terrorized by the rebel Americans. in April of 1774, Noah Paul Cope begins his story: “On this day, my father was murdered because he said a prayer.” What powering this first line. Who wouldn’t want to find out what happens next? We are used to American history form the viewpoint of Americans wanted freedom from Britain. When Noah’s pastor father, New England born and bred, prays over the family meal ending with the phrase “God save England,” as he believed all his life, Noah’s life changes.
Should Noah follow his father’s teachings or his friends and neighbors in the beginning days of the Sons of Liberty rising? We learn from Noah all he knew about Tories and Whigs, Rebels and Loyalists, in Great Britain and the fictional town of Tullbury, MA. It wasn’t a story of kindness and only one truth. Each colonial character exhibits a different voice wether of fear, intimidation, compliance, timidity, or stall-worthiness, each sharing loyalty to his own causes.
The novel continues with adventure and mystery as Noah’s family moves to Boston to find safety. Connecting these two novels, Duet and Loyalty, are the words “goldfinch” and “cages.” Wealthy men in the Boston area are called “goldfinches” for their clothing, canes, and wigs. They appear as dandies. Both books share the importance of fealty to friends and beliefs. Noah considers his black freeman’s advice: “No point in being lay to what keeps you in a cage.”
Broach and Avi bring us into their worlds, the worlds of piano concerts, goldfinches singing in trees, or rebellions and soldiers. Each book is one I couldn’t put down.
Then I read Echo by a favorite author, Pam Munoz Ryan, who I discovered when I was a school librarian. No two of the books are alike. Echo begins with a German folktale of three baby girls unwanted by their king father who longs for a male heir. These young girls seem like fairies or angels to a boy lost in the woods. They rescue Otto and share the gifts of songs and a special harmonica.
The magical harmonica appears miraculously in three stories in Echo. Each is told from a different setting: Nazi Germany in 1934, a Pennsylvania orphanage in the early 40’s, and California during World War II. Each story introduces young protagonists who are relatable to the MG audience. Friedrich learns about prejudice towards “undesirables” like himself, born with a facial birthmark. Mike and his brother learn about home, while Ivy finds solace in her harmonica with war worries surrounding her Mexican-American family. All are exposed to prejudice.
Author Ryan blends genres with her extraordinary storytelling that brings these three young people unpredictably together. Music is the key for all three main characters. You won’t want to miss reading this novel. The title is never actually mentioned as a theme in the book, but you will see its meaning when you get to the last page.
Titles, book covers, and imaginative stories are what impact my reading. Amazon’s summary of Echo describes how I feel about all three books I share here. ” An impassioned, uplifting, and virtuosic tour de force from a treasured storyteller.”
I hope you find Duet, Echo, and Loyalty titles valuable to your reading life.