A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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- Kids say
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?
- Author: Lauren Wolk
- Genre: Literary Fiction
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, History, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Dutton Children's Books
- Publication date: May 3, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 13
- Number of pages: 304
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: Newbery Medal and Honors
- Last updated: March 19, 2021
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