Wolf Hollow

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Wolf Hollow Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Tween's search for justice is intense and beautiful.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 10 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Glimpse of rural life on a family farm in Pennsylvania during World War II and how children helped the war effort. A homeless World War I vet is perceived as "odd" by the community; PTSD isn't mentioned, but kids will learn a little about how he copes and that he's a good person.

Positive Messages

The words you say matter because of the effect they can have on other people. Judge people by their actions. Show compassion for others. Stand up and speak out for what's right. Your life may be "just a single note in an endless symphony," but sound it out as long and as loudly as you can. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Annabelle doesn't want to hide from her problems; she takes them head on. She wants to get a good education because she knows she won't need to stay on the farm her whole life, and she would rather know too much than too little. She judges people by their actions and not by what they or anyone else says. She solves problems by giving them careful consideration and thinking them through logically. She stands up for what's right and fights to make sure the outcast is treated fairly. She's very compassionate and helps others any way she can. Her tight-knit family work together to run the farm. Her parents, teacher, and other authority figures are fair-minded and supportive.


Important characters die. A bully hits with a stick and leaves a welt. The bully strangles a quail; the sound of snapping bones is described. A child is hit in the eye with a rock and loses the eye. Blood is mentioned several times but not described in detail. Injuries from falling in a well include being impaled on a pipe. Blood and the victim's screams during rescue are mentioned. The horrors of war are described vaguely, but there's mention of knowing what a bullet piercing a skull sounds like and tasting dirt and blood. Annabelle wonders why a man would kidnap a girl and hold her prisoner.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that 2017 Newbery Honor book Wolf Hollow is an emotionally intense middle grade debut from author and poet Lauren Wolk that will get kids thinking about compassion, justice, the importance of speaking out, and how to judge someone's character. Protagonist Annabelle, age 11, deals with a psychopathic bully, and a sense of dread is pervasive. Blood is mentioned a few times but not described in detail; the horrors of war are vaguely described once, and injuries to a child who fell in a well and another who lost an eye are mentioned but not described in detail. Two important characters die, and there is sadness (get your hankie out), but the novel reinforces the idea that to be happy with yourself you have to fight for what's right and do what you can to help whenever you can.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byHarry J. March 18, 2018

Fab book. I cried (and I'm a cynical, hardened 39 year old).

This book is brilliant, but the more you think about it, the more dark it is. The bully is evil and is never really exonnerrated. People die. People get inju... Continue reading
Adult Written byEmilyS 18 January 29, 2018

Dependson children's matuity

Although this book is definitely for more mature kids (don't let, for example, your 7-year-old read it, or even a up to a 12-year-old, depending on their... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old March 20, 2017

Fantastic read!

"Wolf Hollow" is a good, mellow book that may leave you laughing out loud, or crying silently. The protagonist efficiently handles bullying and deflec... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old March 19, 2021

Very disturbing

My parents got me this for my 12th birthday and honestly it traumatized me. I usually read books aimed at older children such as the hunger games and really enj... Continue reading

What's the story?

Annabelle, age 11, has a pretty good life on her family's farm in rural Pennsylvania, despite growing up between the shadows of two world wars. A neighboring couple take in their granddaughter from the city, Betty, who has a reputation as being "incorrigible." In the shade of WOLF HOLLOW, Annabelle quickly learns that Betty is much worse than that when she threatens to beat Annabelle and hurt her friends and family. The homeless World War I vet Toby comes to Annabelle's rescue, but by doing so he pits Betty against him. Betty lies, manipulates, and worse to turn the community against Toby. Annabelle tries to prove Toby is not the monster everyone thinks he is and to make sure that he's treated fairly. How can she prove that he didn't do something when it's his word against Betty's?

Is it any good?

Lauren Wolk will invite comparison to Harper Lee thanks to this beautifully written middle grade novel. There are many similarities to To Kill a Mockingbird, including the time period, the mysterious man considered “odd” who befriends Annabelle, and a perfectly conjured and even more gothic sense of dread. The authors diverge in their handling of the larger social issues, and in that Wolf Hollow skews to a slightly younger reader. There’s nothing going on like the big trial, and no issues that the adults understand but the children do not. Some minor characters, good and bad, are more archetypes than fully developed, and in that regard Wolf Hollow doesn’t quite measure up to Lee’s gold standard.

Wolk's rhythmic prose conveys Annabelle’s childlike understanding of people and events with simplicity, honesty, and depth. Preteens and older readers alike will find a lot to think about Annabelle’s experiences with how we judge people, how we treat them, and how and when we can speak out when we see injustice. Have a hankie nearby and be ready to talk especially with younger readers about injustice and life's frustrations.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about bullies. Does Annabelle deal with her bully Betty effectively? Should she have done anything differently? What kinds of bullying behavior have you seen, and how did you handle it?

  • What makes Annabelle a good role model? Are there ways you can be more like her? Is there anything about her you don't like?

  • Do you agree that it's best to judge people by their actions and not by what they or anyone else says? Do you know anyone who turned out to be different from what you thought he or she would be?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love bullies and coming-of-age stories

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