A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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
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.
Violence & Scariness
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.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.