Deep Plunge Between the Lines: (Random Acts of) Kindness

Deep Plunge is a definitive commentary on key aspects of children’s and adolescent literature. Offered freely by Vernon the Reading Primate for the betterment of all reading primates everywhere, it reveals invaluable insights into how books work and why you should read them.

Being kind to others is one of those (cross)cultural norms that seem almost universal and are certainly part of the socialization process not just among humans but among all mammals. But why should young people be kind to others in the first place?

Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Echoryan

This is a story of “long before enchantment was eclipsed by doubt”—which means a story
of our dream childhood. A boy Otto, lost in the woods, meets three sisters ensnared by an evil spell. In return for helping them break free, the sisters enchant the boy’s harmonica so that by playing it he can find the way home. There’s one condition though: the harmonica must be given away to another person when the time is right. Otto agrees. When soon later he wakes up in a sunlit clearing, playing the harmonica gives him the strength to find his way back home. He no loner feels lost; he no longer feels alone.

What happened next?

Otto’s unexplainable adventure is just a prelude to three different stories. One involving a German boy with a face mark, who becomes a target of Nazi racial policies in the mid-1930s; another about two orphaned Irish American brothers struggling to stay together in the late 1930s Philadelphia; yet another about a Mexican American girl attending a racially-segregated school in the mid-1940s California. Different stories, but all involving music, and all tied by the harmonica passed from one hand to another.

Random acts of kindness

We often see our lives in isolation. We often think that kindness is no match for violence. Echo reminds us that we’re connected with others in more ways we realize: in time and space. It affirms that kindness is the only weapon against violence. An affirmation of the power of ordinary human kindness, Echo tells the young reader that every small gesture matters. Most of all, it nurtures hope. “Your fate is not yet sealed. Even in the darkest night, a star will shine, a bell will chime, a path will be revealed.” Read this book. You’ll see clearly that helping others is helping yourself.

Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Echo (2015) is a dazzling blend of fantasy, fairy tale, and historical fiction that will delight readers ages 9¾-108

by Marek O. and Vernon

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