Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Wolf Hollow 61UonXDCtXL__SX333_BO1,204,203,200_Wolf Hollow

Lauren Wolk, Author

Dutton Children’s Books, Fiction, May 3, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 10-13

Themes: Bullying, Mean girls, Lies, Courage, Family relationships, Community, Tolerance

Prologue: “The year I turned twelve, I learned how to lie.  I don’t mean the small fibs that children tell. I mean real lies fed by real fears — things I said and did that took me out of the life I’d always known and put me down hard into a new one.”

Synopsis: It is 1943. Eleven-year-old Annabelle McBride lives on a farm in a small, western Pennsylvania town, with her parents, two brothers, grandparents and Aunt Lily.  Annabelle leads a quiet, ordinary and carefree life, going to school everyday, doing her farm chores, supervising her younger brothers, and helping her mother cook meals in the kitchen. Then one fall morning a very mean-spirited girl named Betty Glengarry moves to Wolf Hollow and changes everything for Annabelle and the community. Betty is cruel and manipulative and easily spots the victims of her bullying through their weaknesses. For Annabelle, Betty threatens to harm her brothers if she doesn’t comply with her demands. Annabelle suffers many beatings on the path to school, until a quiet WW I veteran, Toby intervenes. Betty turns her vengeance on the kind-hearted recluse, and Toby becomes a target of her heartless and ruthless attacks. There are other victims too. As tensions mount, Annabelle’s goodness is her inner strength to do what is right.

Why I like this book:

Lauren Wolk’s debut novel, Wolf Hollow, is gripping and haunting, heartbreaking and beautiful. The setting, the characters, the plot and the gorgeous imagery are so brilliantly intertwined that they create an extraordinary experience for readers. One that you will remember for a long time. You learn about Wolf Hollow and its history of capturing and killing wolves. You feel the silence as you walk the path with Annabelle and ponder its darkness. You experience an extended family living under one roof preparing meals together, canning peaches and baking fresh bread in the oven. And you see contradictions in people who are frightening and neighbors who spread gossip at lightening speed.

The characters are multi-layered and complex. Annabelle is kind-hearted to her very core. She is resilient and courageous. I loved experiencing the story narrative through her innocent and wise character.  She learns how to lie to protects others. Betty Glengarry is vicious and cruel. She knows how to use her charm to manipulate an entire community. Annabelle, who knows Betty’s contradictions, wants her to leave. I want her gone. Yet, as a reader I hope for her redemption and wonder about her vulnerabilities.  What made her so ruthless that she could break a quail’s neck, throw a rock and blind another student, string wire across the road to hurt Annabelle’s brother, and falsely accuse Toby of throwing her in a well?  Was she bullied herself? Even though she’s a bad apple, you worry for her safety. Toby is my favorite character. He’s a gentle man who goes to war, struggles with the atrocities he’s seen, becomes a recluse and wanders into Wolf Hollow. Toby is a quiet presence and his words are few.  He lives in a smoke house and walks the hollows. People think he’s odd, but he is a rare soul who is decent to his very core.

Wolk refrains from sharing all the detail about her characters leaving the reader to decide some things for themselves. The plot is riveting and full of tension. Her deliberate pacing keeps readers fully engaged and wondering what will happen next. Like Annabelle, I found myself contemplating different scenarios. It is a story that will haunt you because of its depth, contradictions and unspoken truths. When I completed the Wolf Hollow, I was convinced I had been there. It is a story that will stay with you because of the profoundly human characters and the untidy ending.

This is an excellent discussion book for teachers to use with middle grade students. There are so many themes that can be explored.

Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

33 thoughts on “Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

  1. Your review makes me want to read this book. Kids will like this book even though it takes place in their great grandparent´s time. Bullying is not a new thing!

    • It really is a character-driven book. I loved the characters. It’s been nominated for the Cybils, so hopefully you’ll get a chance to review it. I loved everything about this story, even though the ending surprised me. Really made you think.

    • I’m glad you loved this realistic novel. I stopped short of calling Betty Glengary a sociopath. Didn’t think about her behavior as a metaphor for the senselessness of war. Need to chew on that one. Thanks for visiting and offering your thoughts.

  2. This sounds like an intense story. I love historical fiction, and stories set ina small town. I also find the cover of this book really interesting!

  3. This sounds truly amazing! I’m touched by your review, and adding it to my list. Thanks so much for the recommend!

  4. This sounds really intriguing. I can tell that it is written beautifully, which always wins points for me. I also have a special affinity for the 40s. I’ll be looking for this one.

  5. Thank you for reviewing this one, Patricia, a book that will definitely open important discussion among children, teachers, and adults everywhere. One, all should learn from.

    • It is definitely a MG novel, and it would make for a good discussion book. It is a stunning and beautiful tale, yet dark in a different way. Yet, I was inspired by this period piece.

      • Yes, I can see MG readers swallowing the words while learning through discussions. Important yet enjoyable reading, is my guess. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of children’s books! My grand-babies will have stacks of them for every stage of their lives. Many, thanks to your reviews. Thanks again, Patricia. 🙂

      • I will, Patricia. I read to them nearly every time they are here to visit. They love books as much as I do. Their parents are very involved with literacy, taking them to the library on a weekly basis to choose stacks of their favorites. 🙂

  6. I love multi-layered books, and themes on bullying are vital – especially this year. I’d heard of Wolf Hollow but now I’ll definitely look for it.

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