Sunday, September 5, 2021

#MMGM Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk

Echo Mountain
by Lauren Wolk
Dutton BFYR/Penguin, 2020, 356 pages

When the depression causes her family to lose everything, and move from town to a more rustic life on Echo Mountain, Ellie, 11, finds herself quite at home in the forests surrounding the mountainside, as does her father. Her older sister Esther and mother don't feel quite as at home and would prefer to move back to town and the life they once had, where father was a tailor and mother was a music teacher. But when her father is severely injured in an accident while he is cutting down a tree that leaves him in a coma, Ellie feels that she is entirely to blame for it, and knows that Esther sees it as her fault as well. Ellie begins to take over many of her father's responsibilities and the only bright spots in her life are the little carved wooden forest creatures and plants she finds in different places and her dog, Quiet. It was thought that Quiet was dead when he was born, but instead of burying him like she was supposed to, Ellie thrust him into a bucket of cold water, which revised the puppy. Unfortunately, similar rash attempts at reviving her father do not end that successfully.  

Ellie also has noticed a dog without an owner a number of times in the forest. But when she is led to the cabin at the top of Echo Mountain by the dog, she finds not the hag everyone says to stay away from, but a rather seriously ill elderly woman named Cate whom Ellie helps nurse back to health. Impressed by Ellie's innate sense of what to do, Cate begins to share her own secrets for healing. But Cate, like Ellie, has some secrets and as the two get to know and trust each other, secrets are revealed.  

I originally read Echo Mountain for the Cybils award, but recently had the pleasure of rereading it for a summer program. I loved it, as did the kids I read it with. In fact, I couldn't put it down both times that I read it, even knowing what was going to happen. It is the kind of book that I would have read as an 11 or 12 year-old and hung on every word. The writing is lyrically beautiful and the characters are just eccentric enough to be really appealing. I loved seeing Ellie grow and change, becoming more and more comfortable in her surroundings and just absorbing everything about natural healing that Cate can teach her. Overall, I thought Ellie was a wonderfully strong, independent protagonist and her story will resonate with readers for a long long time, as it did with my readers this summer.

I said the writing is lyrically beautiful. How beautiful? Let me share my favorite passage and judge for yourself:

"What am I supposed to do?" I said aloud, though I was alone. But the sky was busy being the sky. And the trees were busy being trees. And the birds, likewise, were busy being exactly who they were. Which was, in itself, an answer. I made up my mind to listen to the flame in my chest, which sighed and roared  and sighed again like a long piece of music I knew by heart but still seemed to be hearing fresh." (pg. 169)

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL
Be sure to check out the other Marvelous Middle Grade Monday offerings, 
now being carried on by Greg at Always in the Middle


  1. One of my favorite books this past year! I really loved the unique characters in the story, the gorgeous setting, and the emphasis on natural healing. Loved Ellie's journey. She shines in this story! Bought the book so I could read it again! Love Lauren Wolk!

  2. I also loved this book and always wanted to read it again like you did. Maybe some day... The setting and characters are ones you don't mind going a second round with as the writing is top notch. Thanks for featuring your review on MMGM.

  3. I keep hearing great things about this book! The story sounds like a powerful one with a lot of detail and nuance. And the quote you give us is a truly lovely one—I can see why the writing grabbed you so much! Thanks so much for the great review!

  4. I really liked this book too! And the mountain setting was quite interesting. I want to live at the top of a mountain. Well, maybe not... but I get to in this book :)

  5. I have this on my TBR list. I just need to get it and make time to read it. I loved her other books so much. Thanks for your thoughts and the nudge to get to this one.


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