"Echo" by Pam Muñoz Ryan, Germany

The lives of three children become intertwined when they encounter a musical instrument with a mysterious history.

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definitions & notes only words
  1. waif
    a homeless child especially one forsaken or orphaned
    The midwife looked from the witch's hovel to the dirty, uncombed waifs, already cooing at the infant in her arms.
  2. whimper
    cry weakly or softly
    Whimpering, he stood, taking hesitant steps until he came upon a procession of fir trees that formed an immense circle.
  3. rapt
    feeling great delight and interest
    Eins, Zwei, and Drei held one another’s hands, their faces rapt.
  4. ramshackle
    in deplorable condition
    The cottage was dank and ramshackle; the witch never replaced a thatch.
  5. drudgery
    hard, monotonous, routine work
    The sisters hod two consolations in their lives of drudgery.
  6. reverie
    an abstracted state of absorption
    But whenever he felt afraid, he secretly took the harmonica from its hiding spot, played a song, and escaped into its reverie, feeling the familiar sense of happiness and comfort, that peculiar and euphoric well-being.
  7. tolerate
    allow without opposing or prohibiting
    Father would never have tolerated this posture.
  8. conspicuous
    obvious to the eye or mind
    But it made Friedrich feel less conspicuous, even if he was more vulnerable to things in his path.
  9. mottled
    having spots or patches of color
    And on one side, his skin was like everyone else’s, but on the other, a painter had dabbed shades of purple, red, and brown, turning his cheek into a mottled plum.
  10. sentry
    a person employed to keep watch for some anticipated event
    And the fat water tower—a stodgy obelisk standing sentry over the entire enclave—was his guardian in disguise.
  11. palpable
    capable of being perceived
    The energy inside the factory was palpable.
  12. staccato
    marked by or composed of disconnected parts or sounds
    As Friedrich and Uncle Gunter entered the massive hall—part warehouse and part assembly-room floor—Friedrich listened to the comforting whir of saws interrupted by the staccato sound of metal being punched.
  13. goad
    provoke as by constant criticism
    They’d only exchanged a few pleasantries since he had started at the factory, but he seemed to enjoy goading Friedrich.
  14. ethereal
    of heaven or the spirit
    The harmonica had a rich, ethereal quality—the same alluring sound he’d heard earlier in the graveyard room.
  15. furtive
    marked by quiet and caution and secrecy
    Would he be able to sit in a classroom with students he’d never met? Even if he could endure the furtive glances and downcast eyes, what would be the point anyway?
  16. potential
    the inherent capacity for coming into being
    “They will be lucky to have your talent,” said Elisabeth. “And now, more than ever, Germany needs its true citizens to rise to their potential to be shining examples.”
  17. disparage
    express a negative opinion of
    Let’s not disparage an instrument that goes back to the ancient Chinese sheng.
  18. warble
    sing or play with trills
    The cuckoo clock warbled.
  19. genial
    diffusing warmth and friendliness
    At first, Uncle Gunter was genial and asked questions about Elisabeth’s work.
  20. feign
    make believe with the intent to deceive
    Feigning tiredness, he put on his coat and picked up his accordion.
  21. pallid
    deficient in color suggesting physical or emotional distress
    “What’s wrong? You look pallid.”
  22. stigma
    a symbol of disgrace or infamy
    She had an aunt with the same type of birthmark, and knew that it would be burden enough. Adding the stigma of epilepsy would be too much.
  23. convulsion
    violent uncontrollable contractions of muscles
    Some people think the convulsions are caused by demons or insanity and that it’s not a medical condition.
  24. transgression
    the violation of a law or a duty or moral principle
    Every doctor has been ordered to report all of their patients with physical deformities, alcoholism, mental illnesses, blindness, deafness, epilepsy—there’s a list of transgressions.
  25. speculation
    a hypothesis that has been formed by conjecturing
    “There is already speculation about how many will actually survive this surgery. Who is to say they won’t just kill people the Nazis think are undesirable, to create Hitler’s so-called pure race?”
  26. opposition
    being against something that you disapprove or disagree with
    And when I’m around, Father, I request that you speak favorably of Hitler, or say nothing. I need to believe that you might join the party, so that when I am questioned about my family by my superiors—and I will be questioned—I can say that I have no reason to suspect you of opposition.
  27. brittle
    lacking warmth and generosity of spirit
    In the broken chords, he heard the rhythm of Father and Elisabeth’s argument. The alternating notes—their banter back and forth—rose and fell. The music was as precise as their conversation had been brittle.
  28. exemplary
    worthy of imitation
    “They appreciate me. For my knowledge as a nurse, for my moral character and exemplary behavior. I’m ... I'm somebody to them.”
  29. stilted
    artificially formal
    Anger and sadness choked Friedrich. His words came out stilted.
  30. nicety
    conformity with some aesthetic standard of correctness
    Father and Elisabeth tripped over the niceties of civil conversation.
  31. unconscionable
    greatly exceeding bounds of reason or moderation
    Any injustice the Nazis impose on the Jews, they will impose on you, or anyone else they deem undesirable. It is unconscionable!
  32. dispensation
    an exemption from some rule or obligation
    He said if you’re admitted, we can ask a conservatory representative to write a letter on your behalf—a dispensation letter. Apparently, Hitler and the Nazis make concessions for ‘loyal and true Germans of great aptitude.’ Your musical ability could be your saving grace.
  33. fortuitous
    lucky; occurring by happy chance
    “Something fortuitous has happened, Friedrich. I called a few friends to see if they’d join me to play some impromptu chamber music tonight and they’ve agreed.”
  34. repertoire
    a collection of works that an artist or company can perform
    “Before we talk about the repertoire,” said Father, “Friedrich has agreed to play something for you at my bidding.”
  35. commandant
    an officer in charge of a military unit
    For heaven’s sake, Martin, my brother is the new regional commandant for the Nazi police.
  36. sympathizer
    someone who shares your feelings or opinions
    I cannot risk being thought a sympathizer. I cannot even be in the same house with a Jew. If anyone thought I was colluding...
  37. suspicion
    doubt about someone's honesty
    Friedrich and I will go to work as usual ... go to the bank and take out money, but not enough to arouse suspicion ... luggage packed and ready ...
  38. fitful
    occurring in spells and often abruptly
    The next morning on the way to work, Friedrich was shadowed by worry and exhaustion; he’d hardly slept, and when he had, it was fitful.
  39. detain
    deprive of freedom; take into confinement
    He and Uncle Gunter had hoped Father would be questioned and released the next day or the following. When he wasn’t, they mulled the same questions over and over: Was Father being detained in town?
  40. pillage
    steal goods; take as spoils
    Every room had been searched and turned upside down; every drawer and closet had been pillaged.
  41. ruse
    a deceptive maneuver, especially to avoid capture
    That Martin and I are eager to join the Nazi Party. That you will join the Hitler Youth. And that you need help for your father’s sake, to bring him back into Germany’s arms. Part of it would be a ruse. But what difference would it make if it saves Martin’s life?
  42. discretion
    knowing how to avoid embarrassment or distress
    “She asked for my discretion in the matter.”
  43. emissary
    someone sent on a mission to represent another's interests
    If Mrs. von Gerber hadn’t been trustworthy, Elisabeth could be the one questioned next. I think we can assume she won’t be our emissary.
  44. confiscate
    take temporary possession of a security by legal authority
    You can take nothing of sentiment or value or it will be confiscated by the Nazis, except for the Reichsmarks, of course.
  45. amenable
    disposed or willing to comply
    I suspect the commandant at Dachau will feel more amenable right before Christmas, too.

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