Review of Echo Mountain, by Lauren Wolk

Echo Mountain

by Lauren Wolk

Dutton Children’s Books, 2019. 356 pages.
Review written January 9, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

Set in Maine in 1934, about a family who left to live on Echo Mountain after their money ran out in the Great Depression, here’s how the book begins:

The first person I saved was a dog.

My mother thought he was dead, but he was too young to die, just born, still wet and glossy, beautiful really, but not breathing.

Ellie ended up plunging the puppy into a barrel of water, and he revived and she gave him back to his mother. But that puppy had a special place in her heart.

So after that success, Ellie starts getting ideas about how she could wake up her father, who has been in a coma for months, after a tree fell on him. They had a doctor come, but the doctor offered no help. Ellie thinks that quiet and lullabies are the wrong approach. Maybe a shock, like the cold water on the puppy, will do the trick.

She doesn’t consult with her mother or big sister in this planning, and when she starts carrying out her plans, they aren’t too happy. At the same time, when she ventures up the mountain, she meets someone else who needs help – but who also knows a thing or two about medicine.

A fun part of this book was the different remedies Ellie and others try. It turns out I didn’t know much about medical knowledge in 1934. I had no idea that honey helps a wound to heal – or how you would get honey if you needed it, on a mountain without any money.

It was also a lovingly drawn picture of a poor community, using barter and ingenuity to get along, but the toll it took on a woman to run a home while her husband was unconscious. And then her daughter tries crazy ideas to help! (One of Ellie’s ideas was to put a non-poisonous snake in her father’s bed. She figured when he heard her sister scream, he’d want to help her so much, he’d wake up.)

This book did remind me of Lauren Wolk’s other books. They all have quirky, thoughtful characters that you come to love.

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