January 26, 2017
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
Annabelle is growing up in the shadow of two world wars. In spite of this, life in her small Pennsylvania town is pretty quiet. For a long time, the only signs of the war that she sees are the stars that represent the local men over sewn on the banner. Then Betty moves to town.
It’s an open secret that Betty is trouble. The adults all know it but they hope that a fresh start will do the girl some good. The grandparents that she lives with are friends of Annabelle’s grandparents so Annabelle is more than willing to give the girl a chance. But she’s a schoolyard bully who beats people who don’t pay up and soon focuses her attentions on Toby.
Toby doesn’t have a home. He shelters in an abandoned smoke house. He carries three rifles everywhere he goes and takes pictures of the outdoors using the camera Annabelle’s mother won in a drawing. With one scarred hand, people know he fought in the great war but they don’t know much more about him. Annabelle and her mother leave food for him and try to be what help they can.
But when Betty goes missing, suspicion quickly falls on Toby.
I’m not going to say anything more about the plot because I don’t want to give away all the marvelous twist and turns. Earlier in the week, this book was named as an honor book for the American Library Association’s Newbery Award. If this was an honor book, I definitely need to get my hands on the winner.
This is a book that needs to be in all school libraries. It tells a story about intolerance and prejudice and how people’s suspicions can spiral out of control. It is also a story about quiet strength and compassion and the fight to bring the truth to light.
We tend to think of the past and childhood as simple and innocent. This book shines a light into the shadows and shows us how nuanced and multi-layered people of every age, throughout time, truly are.
Read this with your class. Read it with your child. It will give you both something to contemplate.