Review of Echo Mountain

Echo Mountain
by Lauren Wolk
Intermediate, Middle School    Dutton    359 pp.    g
4/20    978-0-525-55556-8    $17.99

Since the Great Depression forced twelve-year-old Ellie’s family to move from town up to Echo Mountain, she hasn’t known how to interact with her mother and older sister; they miss their former life and blame her for the tree-felling accident that has left her father in a coma. Ellie doesn’t know how to wake him up, though she keenly desires it, but there’s a lot she does know: how to “hunt and trap and fish and harvest” as if she were born to it. Remembering her father’s advice — “the things we need to learn to do, we learn to do by doing” — she takes it upon herself to find the answers to her problems, including persistent attempts to rouse her father using unconventional methods (dousing him with cold water, stinging him with bees). Meeting the injured Miss Cate, an elderly mountain woman, and Larkin, a solitary boy with a talent for wood carving, eventually helps Ellie figure out how to heal her broken family. Wolk’s latest novel (Wolf Hollow, rev. 7/16; Beyond the Bright Sea, rev. 7/17) immerses readers in its 1934 Maine woods setting, folding myriad details about living off the land into Ellie’s captivating and complex first-person narration. Free-spirited Ellie’s affinity for her natural surroundings and her empathic connection with animals show an appreciation for the interconnectedness of life, as do several of the (well-earned) plot revelations. Wolk’s poetic prose and enticing foreshadowing warrant savoring as they carry the reader through the narrative, which gracefully unfolds over brief, steadily paced chapters. Exemplary historical fiction.

From the July/August 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Cynthia K. Ritter
Cynthia K. Ritter

Cynthia K. Ritter is managing editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She earned a master's degree in children's literature from Simmons University. She served on the 2019 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award committee.

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