Monday, April 20, 2015
When Otto is lost in the woods, he is sheltered by three strange birds who give him a gift. The harmonica is different from any he's ever heard. Otto's life is saved, and the new harmonica begins its journey.
Friedrich loves music and longs to become a conductor one day. He tried attending school with the other children, but they tortured him ruthlessly because of the red birthmark on his face. Now he goes to work with Papa at the harmonica factory. He works part of the day and studies with the men at the factory for the rest of the day. He dreams of going to the music academy, but his birthmark and his father's anti-Nazi feelings may cause a problem. As the Nazis gain power in Germany, Friedrich and his family are in ever increasing danger. One of the few comforts he has is a strange harmonica he found in an abandoned factory.
Mike and his younger brother are orphans in Pennsylvania following the deaths of their mother and grandmother. The orphanage is a terrible place. The children are always hungry and dirty, and their lives are devoid of joy. Mike is a talented musician, but he is largely denied this gift in the orphanage. He fears he and his brother will be separated, so when a chance for the two of them to be adopted together arrives, they jump at the chance. This new life couldn't be more different than the old one. They now live in a beautiful mansion with plenty of food, and Mike is even getting lessons on the harmonica from the butler, but life isn't all perfect even when you're rich, and Mike will do anything to project his little brother.
Ivy is thrilled to be selected to play a solo on her harmonica when her class plays on the radio, but when her father gets a new job, they must leave overnight for their new home. At first Ivy is angry, but the new job is good for everyone. They have a house to live in, and her father is responsible for running an entire farm while the owner is away. Mr. Yamamoto has promised a permanent home and job if he likes the way Ivy's father runs things while he imprisoned in an internment camp. Now that the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor, it doesn't matter how American the Yamamotos are or that their son, like Ivy's brother, is off fighting in the war. The government and many of their neighbors suspect anyone who is Japanese of being a spy.
The lives of the children are linked through one special harmonica in Pam Munoz Ryan's new novel about the power of music to strengthen and inspire.