Title: Wolf Hollow
Author: Lauren Wolk
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Audience: Ages 10 and up
Summary: In a rural Pennsylvania community, 11- year -old Annabelle McBride walks a path to school through Wolf Hollow, a place where, according to her grandfather, pits were dug in the past to trap wolves and kill them, pups as well as adults. But this cruel violence was in the past; Betty Glenncary is violence in the present. Sent to stay with her grandparents because she is incorrigible, Betty is a bully who threatens Annabelle if she does not bring her a present; a liar who accuses the derelict veteran,Toby, from World War I of blinding a student with a rock which she has thrown; a destroyer who accuses Toby of throwing her down a well. Annabelle has a tentative friendship with Toby based on occasional – almost silent – encounters with him as he roams the woods and on photography. She has lent him a camera and takes his pictures, astonishing pictures, to be developed. Mrs. McBride often sends Annabelle with supper to Toby’s shack. When Betty’s lies bring the law in pursuit of Toby, Annabelle hides him in their loft and plans a way to prove his innocence. It is the summer that she learns to lie.
Literary elements at work in the story: Annabelle is the narrator of her story, giving hints of future outcomes and reflecting on the past at its conclusion. Her prologue warns us that these events will have serious impact on her life. The story takes place with World War II in the immediate background, the results of World War I still being felt. The prose matches the simple, disciplined, generous farm life it describes with metaphors drawn from daily life. Annabelle speaks of the sound of the police officers report being muffled “as if I were inside a Mason jar and not nearly enough holes in the lid for breathing.” In a passage of poetry she describes the changing seasons in the barn. Wolf Hollow is the symbol for the social evil that pervades this book. There is no triumph of good over evil in the story; there is a satisfying growth in Annabelle’s sense of personal and social responsibility and a developing relationship with her brother. Without this, the book would have little hope.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? Annabelle is surprised by Betty’s perception of her as a rich person. There are, however, economic and social differences in the community and in Annabelle’s classmates. Bathing is one of them. Women cook and clean; men work on the farm; this division of labor does not seem to carry any particular authority. This is a Caucasian, probably Protestant community where a German resident feels some wartime prejudice.
Theological Conversation Partners: Wolf Hollow is a case study in situational ethics. When, if ever, is lying justified? When does truth triumph? What does it mean to bear false witness and why is this forbidden in the Ten Commandments when lying is not? What does it mean as a Christian to be a responsible member of society, to realize that what I as an individual do matters.? The book is a powerful indictment against war. The first World War is as damaging to Toby as Betty’s lies. Annabelle’s family is a model of good stewardship, of being good neighbors, of good parenting in an intergenerational household. They are obvious participants in the local church although the connection between faith and actions is not spelled out. The one person who does seem to take religion seriously, Aunt Lilly, is almost stereotypical in her unpleasant, judgmental spirit. The presence of evil in the world where a righteous God reigns is a major problem that children (and adults) will wrestle with as they mature. Wolf Hollow provides ample material to think about this.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Why is this book titled Wolf Hollow?
- The Ten Commandments forbid “bearing false witness” not lying. What is the difference and why is the one more serious than the other?
- There are several occasions of lying in the book. Are all lies the same? Was Annabelle’s lie about the picture justified?
- What was the difference between Betty’s snapping the quail’s neck and killing a chicken for supper?
- Annabelle says that killing snakes is worse than killing wolves. Her grandfather replies, “Not to the God who made them.” What do you think of his answer.?
- Do you think the character of Aunt Lily is fairly depicted? Do prayer and devotion necessarily make one judgmental and unpleasant?
- Grandfather says, “A wolf is not a dog and never will be no matter how you raise it.” Does this apply to a person, Does it mean that one cannot change.?
- What are some reasons that Betty is like she is?
- What could you have said to comfort Ruth after she loses her sight?
- The effects of two wars are suggested. How are the wars similar to Betty’s lies and violence?
- How has Annabelle changed by the close of the book?
This review is written by alumna and regular contributor Virginia Thomas.
Wolf Hollow by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.