Review / Echo Mountain

20210314ma_0727Book: Echo Mountain (2020)
Author: Lauren Wolk
Genre: MG, Historical [1930s]

Basic plot: Ellie and her family have come to live on Echo Mountain during the Great Depression. When her father is put into a coma after being struck by a tree, Ellie is determined to wake him up. She ends up finding the hag who lives at the top of the mountain, only to discover that the mysterious woman is facing her own medical emergency. Ellie seeks ways to help the hag with hopes that she might in turn help her father as well.

Opening lines from the book …
The first person I saved was a dog.


1) The Great Depression has always fascinated me. This book isn’t quite your typical middle-grade book set during the Depression. Rather it’s also a survival story of sorts where the town family must learn to live off the land on the mountain, including dealing with life-threatening medical emergencies.

2) I enjoyed Ellie’s growing relationship with the mysterious “hag”, Miss Cate. I have always been fascinated by natural medicine/remedies. And this is a great part of the book, especially with Miss Cate teaching Ellie about the use of maggots and honey and even vinegar! (I am glad I didn’t need to “see” the injuries talked about in the book!)

3) There are some nice little twists and connections between the various characters in the book. This is especially true with Larkin, Miss Cate, and the dog Captan. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I won’t say any more about that right now.

4) I like the arc of the mother. At first, she is not on Ellie’s side. As she deals with being the only parent (since her husband is in a coma), she does her best as the mother of three children. Ellie causes her quite a bit of grief when she wanders all over the mountain. But as the book progresses, the mother at least tries to understand the daughter that has so embraced the mountain life.

5) I love the little brother Samuel! (The sister, Esther, is harder to like.) But, it’s nice to see Ellie interact with her brother’s endless questions. And of course, there’s Quiet, the dog. I love it when Samuel and Quiet start to bond. (And to be truthful, I was more interested in the relationship between Quiet and Samuel than Quiet and Ellie.)

6) There’s a little story about Florence Nightingale that Miss Cate tells that absolutely won me over. (Florence Nightingale has been one of my childhood heroes since forever!)


1) It was a little bit of a slow start for me. Just take that into account. I’d say that about half-way through, I became more interested in finding out how the book will turn out.


If you love a good survival/pioneer type story, this book is for you. Ellie takes to life on Echo Mountain like a fish to water. And it’s part of the fun of the book to see her find solutions in nature.


Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review: Island War

island-warBook: Island War (2018)
Author: Patricia Reilly Giff
Genre: MG, Historical (WWII)
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic plot:  Izzy and Matt arrive on an Alaskan island around the same time–Izzy with her mother, and Matt with his father. When the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, it isn’t long before Japanese soldiers land and the islanders are evacuated to camps in Japan. However, Izzy and Matt find themselves left behind. Now they have to survive on their own, making sure nobody knows they’re even on the island.


1) I loved this from a historical perspective. I didn’t know the U.S. was “invaded”. So, this part of history really grabbed me.

2) The beginning of the novel (when Izzy and Matt both get used to life on the island) was very pleasant and interesting to read. I particularly liked Maria, the island girl that befriends Izzy. (She also has a super cool name. Just saying.)

3) Then half-way through the book, the plot takes a turn… to more of an Island of the Blue Dolphins vibe. Once the kids are on their own it becomes a survival story. Not only do they have to find food, but they also have to hide from the enemy. (And I love that one particular soldier may not be such a bad guy after all.)

4) The story is told through alternating chapters and POVs of Matt and Izzy. I loved their rivalry and how Giff portrays their mutual dislike of one another. It makes it even better when they have to put their differences behind them in order to survive. I liked how both characters have arcs.

5) I really like the muted colour on the cover of this book. I think it works very nicely for the story inside.


1) Some of the backstories were a little confusing to me. Especially with what happened to Izzy’s dad. I think he’s dead (but I’m not sure… Did I somehow miss that part?)


My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – This book is for anybody who is interested in a lesser-known story about World War II. And also for people who enjoy a good survival story.


Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday