Pam Munoz Ryan brings magic and music to a novel about social justice in Echo (Scholastic, 2015, ages 10-14). I talked recently with Pam about this new novel, set during World War II, and its magical harmonica. Click here for the KidsPost/WashingtonPost article.
Below are a few writing prompts for the classroom or for individual writers ages 8 and up.
FAIRY TALES AND MAGICAL OBJECTS: The book opens with a fairy tale and an unlikely magical object: the ordinary harmonica.
Classroom Discussion: Ask students how the harmonica helped the three children in the separate stories. What did students learn about harmonicas?
Classroom Writing: Ask students to bring in an ordinary object from home (baseball bat, stuffed toy, box, charm, etc.). Have them write their own tale in which this object is magical. What does it do? If they do some research into the object (as Pam did with the harmonica), how might it enter into or make the tale even more interesting?
SOCIAL JUSTICE: All the young characters wrestle with issues of social justice. In Nazi Germany, Friedrich is marked as “undesirable” because of his birthmark. In Pennsylvania, Mike and his younger brother can be farmed out to do unpaid labor by their orphanage. In California, Ivy, who is Mexican American, must go to a school that’s different (and has fewer resources) than the one for white children.
Classroom Discussion: How do these three children deal with the injustice in their lives? Brainstorm other times in history when there was injustice (slavery, Civil Rights era, women denied the vote, etc.). How did things change? Have students think about some rules they may consider unfair at school or ways they feel they may have been treated unjustly at home or in the wider world. How did this make them feel? What did they do? Have them list, first alone and then as a group, some injustices they see in this country and in the wider world. What are some ways they might create change?
Classroom Writing: Make up a character (or write about yourself) in a moment of injustice. First describe the injustice and how it affects others. Then write about what happens to you or your character. Read aloud and discuss.
MORE DETAILS ABOUT PAM: Pam’s author website is www.pammunozryan.com.