I have made an earnest effort to read a lot of Newbery winners and honors this past school year (more than usual), and it has been my pleasure to be able to read all of the contenders for the past couple of years (it's a lot tougher to find them from years ago, but thankfully, if the local library doesn't have the actual book, their electronic library service more than likely will). It's nice to be up to date. I'm not usually a person who reads all of the new stuff just come out, it takes me a couple of years to catch on to something that everyone else has raved about (like four years ago!), because I am so busy reading stuff from a hundred or so years ago so it's nice to be current or in the now. Of course, it is much easier to be up to date with children's literature.
That being said, it's a nice picture book. I saw lots of teaching opportunities in it for the classroom (and at home too!). When I read it aloud to a class, I just touched briefly on class awareness, prejudices, community spirit and the clever use of metaphor. For a teacher I could see a comprehensive unit being taught about this book, language arts, social studies, art, community service, cooking, you name it, you might be able to apply it to this book.
This was done just for the fairy tale portions at the beginning and the end.In no other work has music spoken so loudly to me. It was a symphony of words, each story was a movement, each section a crescendo of emotion, a part of history full of it's own horror. The characters in each arc had their own part to play in a piece that wasn't revealed until the very end of the book. At the last section I was in tears, because by that time I saw much more than just four separate sad or scary stories but a symphony that was rich and poignant.
Echo, in my opinion, should have won the award.