Friday, January 6, 2017

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

New York Times : The book’s narrative builds suspensefully toward an ending that’s wrenching and true, and in its final pages, Annabelle learns to abide by life’s complexities.

Kids Book Review : Gripping, heart-breaking, thought-provoking, profoundly moving and ultimately uplifting, Wolf Hollow is a book that I know I will read again.

Early in Wolf Hollow there are two scenes that will linger with me for a long time.

"Betty picked up a stick from along the path. It was dead wood, but I could tell from how she held it that it was still heavy. 'Tomorrow you bring me something or I'm going to beat you with this stick."

I rarely do this but after reading about Annabelle's first encounter with the bully Betty I just had to skip to the last chapter to make sure everything 'turned out okay'. I am happy to report the reviewer from the School Library Journal Elizabeth Bird did the same thing. I recommend reading the SLJ review now as it makes all the points I planed to raise but far more eloquently.

Back to the bully and her actions.  I knew there would be several possibilities for the ending of this book. The bully could be reformed and even make friends, the bully could leave, someone might die or worse - there might be no resolution. I won't spoil the ending but having glanced at the last few pages I then had the 'strength' to keep reading.

The other scene that worried me, enough to make me stop reading yesterday, was when I read that Annabelle had decided not to tell her mother, or any other adults about her vicious tormentor, at least at first.

"If I told her she'd have to go to her friends, the Glengarrys, and tell them their granddaughter was a hooligan ... And despite the face that she'd been able to fix nearly every broken thing in our lives, mother could not promise me that Betty would not come again, even angrier - or, worse, go after my brothers - if I tattled on her."

The time is 1943.  Fear of others bought about by the war has begun to permeate this remote rural community.  Annabelle is eleven and her carefree childhood is about to be shattered.  Her family are loving, hardworking and compassionate people. Toby is a loner - wounded in body and mind by his experience of the First War.  Annabelle sees beyond the scars and shyness.  She follows the example of her mother offering kindness to this man.  This will be both lucky for Annabelle but have devastating consequences for Toby who quietly observes the serious harm inflicted by Betty.  This is a story about betrayal, hidden lives, truth and lies.  Listen here to the first ten minutes of the story.

You can read more about vicious bullies and the reactions of children who are forced to cope with their violence in books such as Fearless by Tim Lott and The Present takers by Aidan Chambers.   I would also link this book with The Crazy Man by Pamela Porter.

Read more review comments here.  Horn Book have published an interview with the author.

"If life was to be just a single note in an endless symphony, how I could I not sound it out for as long and as loudly as I could?"

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