Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sure to Become a Classic Pick: Wolf Hollow

Wolf Hollow
by Lauren Wolk
Dutton Children's Books
2016
291 pages
ISBN" 9781101994825


Wolf Hollow is sure to become a classic of children's literature. It is the triumphant story of a rural childhood during World War II set in the hills and hollows of Pennsylvania's mountains. Annabelle lives on a farm where life is defined by the rising and setting of the sun and the passing of seasons. There are always chores to do before and after school: stock to be tended, stalls to be cleaned, food to be prepared, clothes to be washed. The list is never-ending, but Annabelle never complains. It is expected of children to help in the home and on the farm.

Life seems idyllic besides the work, but when Betty Glengarry moves in with her grandparents, she threatens Annabelle's quiet life. Betty has been shipped off to her grandparents in the country because she is "incorrigable." Annabelle thinks that Betty is just plain mean and evil.  Betty tells Annabelle to bring her something, or she will hurt Annabelle and her two younger brothers. Annabelle brings a penny, all that she has, and Betty laughs and hits her with a stick.

Annabelle decides she is not going to back down to Betty's threats after that. She does not want to tell her parents either. She decides that she will have to stand up to Betty. A silent witness who makes his home in the woods sees all. Toby, a silent loner who arrived after World War I, roams the hills around Annabelle's farm. She is not afraid of him. Toby is gentle and quiet. He just wants to be left alone. He leads a simple life, hunting what meat he can find, and Annabelle's mother makes sure to send a plate of food with Annabelle up the road where she will leave it for Toby to find. The next day the washed plate is always left right where Annabelle set it, and Annabelle knows that Toby got a decent meal.

As the taunting and bullying from Betty comes to a head, suddenly Betty finds another ally. Farm boy Andy comes to school and soon Betty is too smitten by his attentions to bother Annabelle until the day that someone hurts Annabelle's friend Ruth. A rock thrown from the trees on the hill  changes Ruth's life forever and affects the entire community.

Betty blames Toby by saying that he was probably aiming at Mr. Ansel's wagon or Mr. Ansel. Annabelle knows Toby would never hurt anyone, and she wants to prove his innocence.

The life lessons contained in Wolf Hollow are reason enough for everyone to read this book. WWII changed the landscape of America forever. Many boys did not come home, and those who did never talked about the horrors of war they faced. They became silent witnesses, like Toby. Maybe some became scapegoats for others' crimes and misdeeds.

It is brilliant that a child like Annabelle could see the shining light in Toby when the adults could not. Maybe they did not look for it or did not look deeply or long enough. Adults can  be too quick to judge. They can form opinions of a quiet loner. They may think he is crazy, or stupid, or a lazy bum or a threat. But a child sees his honestly, his care, and his grace.

Bring tissues. Wolf Hollow will both break your heart and refresh your spirit!

This is the BEST childhood classic I have read in a very long time. It reminds me of Charlotte's Web and A Secret Garden. Every child and every adult should read this book. Do NOT miss this one.
School book clubs and reading clubs must read this book!

FTC Required Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my library. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.


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