Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Wolf Hollow - Lauren Wolk

Summary: Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

Brilliantly crafted, Wolf Hollow is a haunting tale of America at a crossroads and a time when one girl’s resilience, strength, and compassion help to illuminate the darkest corners of our history. (Summary and pic from

My Review: Wolf Hollow is the third stop on my tour of 2017’s Newbery Award winners. As with the winner this year—The Girl Who Drank the Moon, and one of the Honorable Mentions, TheInquisitor’s Tale, this Honorable Mention was also a very powerful, well-written book.

One of the things I have really enjoyed about this year’s Newbery Award choices was the diversity of them. The Girl Who Drank the Moon was a fun and allegorical fairytale that obviously had real-world application, but was also just fun because it was an allegorical fairytale. The Inquisitor’s Tale was hilarious and beautifully illustrated and a really unique book that did an excellent job of creating the world in which it took place. Wolf Hollow is an excellent book that had an old-timey feel about it, with a great grasp of the best parts of historical fiction, but also the very real applicability of a book that kids today could relate to.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. I feel like I say that a lot. I love to be happily surprised. (Who doesn’t?) I always have high hopes for award winners, especially ones that are as prestigious as the Newbery Award. But let’s face it—some of those early Newbery winners couldn’t hold a candle to the winners today. JFic has become an extremely competitive genre, and I think that’s due not only to more adults reading and enjoying JFic (because let’s face it, sometimes adulting is hard), but also because today’s kids are facing situations that are very complex and layered and they are understanding and experiencing commensurate to what they are reading. I, for one, have very much enjoyed what the JFic genre has had to offer for the past several years.

One of the things that surprised me most about Wolf Hollow was the old timey feel about it. It reminded me of historical fiction books from a long time ago—the kind that don’t necessarily bring you right to living in the time it takes place, but more like helping you remember another time, another place. Does that make sense? It’s not like I was living in the world, I felt like I was watching the world it was taking place in. It was fascinating, actually. Wolk does an excellent job of setting time and place and explaining things in a way that just really takes you back. Not that I lived during this time, of course, (WWI is a very long time ago, even if you think I’m old, which I’m not). For instance, in the very beginning of the book she’s describing how the main character doesn’t think she’s rich, and then proceeds to tell about the home she lives in, the little extras like the small stained glass window in their house, and it just creates this very real portrait of the world as well as what the narrator is like. It’s great.

I very much enjoyed the characters in this book. They made the story, of course. As I’m sure you can tell from the description, this is a sad book. There is so much hurt and misunderstanding and sometimes that’s really frustrating not only to read about, but to live in real life as well. And so I appreciated the honesty in that sense. I also appreciated that for the most part, people were good and trying to give each other the benefit of the doubt. I like this in real life and I also enjoyed it in the book. My world view is such that I believe people really are like this.

Lastly, I thought the writing was fantastic, as you might expect from a winner of such a prestigious award. It was beautiful and poignant and felt like it was written by a young pre-teen, even though it was also very complex in its simplicity and insight. There was a lot to be learned not only from what was being said, but by the subtle nuances as well.

I really think this was a great book. I appreciated the lessons it had to teach, and definitely recommend it to those who love JFic.

My Rating: 5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is some child on child violence and also some sad scenes. I felt like these things were all dealt with on a level that JFic readers would be sad to read about, but could understand and relate to.

1 comment:

Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

I just finished this a few days ago, and while overall I liked the book, I had I very hard time with the arc the story took once Annabelle's parents became, essentially, accomplices in her lies with regards to Toby and his whereabouts. That seemed so out of character, especially for the setting when integrity meant everything. I lost respect for the characters after that...


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