Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk (9780525555568)
Ellie and her family were forced to move to Echo Mountain a few years ago after losing everything in the Great Depression. The life is rough and much wilder than living in town, but it’s a life that Ellie thrives in. However, the dangers are larger too. When Ellie’s father is injured while felling a tree and left in a coma, Ellie must start taking new responsibilities for herself, her mother, her older sister and her younger brother. She even takes the blame for the accident, unwilling to let her siblings know the roles they played that day. Ellie decides that she must figure out a way to bring her father back, though her family doesn’t approve. She heads up the mountain to seek help from “the hag” who lives there, but discovers someone in dire need there too. As Ellie makes new friends and builds new connections, new chances and opportunities are revealed.
One never knows what world will be revealed by a new Wolk novel, but readers can always be confident in a book that is extremely well written, robustly researched, and filled with unforgettable characters. Wolk also always includes settings that are fascinating and unusual, here it is Echo Mountain, wild and dangerous but also beautiful and sustaining. It’s a setting to fall in love with just as Ellie has.
The characters here are amazingly well crafted. From Ellie as the protagonist all the way through even her rather prickly sister and her demanding younger brother. Everyone makes sense at a deep level, reacting to the situation they are in and doing their best with what they have. The entire book resonates with our current times of job loss, economic downturn, and resilience.
Evocative and powerful, this is one of Wolk’s best and that’s certainly saying something! Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from library copy.