Growing up in rural Pennsylvania in 1943, Annabelle lives a quiet life where she hopes for adventure. She attends a one-room schoolhouse with her two younger brothers, walking there from their family farm each day. That quiet life changes when Betty Glengarry arrives at school. She immediately targets Annabelle, demanding payments in exchange for not hurting Annabelle and her brothers, killing a bird without remorse. Annabelle does not want to worry her family with her troubles, so she keeps them to herself. Soon though things escalate with her youngest brother running into a sharpened wire along the path. After that, Annabelle’s best friend is maimed with a rock that Annabelle knows was thrown by Betty. Betty though blames Toby, a reclusive man who walks the paths all day long with guns slung on his back. Toby has been nothing but kind to Annabelle and her family, but he is considered strange by many. When Betty disappears soon after making the allegation, Annabelle decides that she must rescue Toby from the new accusations being made.
Wolk has created a rich and beautiful world for Annabelle to live in. The hills and valleys of the Pennsylvanian countryside offer not only a rich farming world but also a place where secrets can hide and dangers lurk. The setting of Wolf Hollow itself with its history of trapping wolves in pits is a striking analogy for what happens in the novel. Annabelle herself is brave and clever, a girl who is bullied awfully and then has the power placed in her hands to make a difference for someone she cares about.
This book focuses on the courage it takes to stand up for what is right, for what one knows deep down to be true. It is a book that speaks to all of those who are strange among us and the way that rumors and accusations tend to target them. It is also about the power a child can have in an adult world, the difference one person can make. It is also a book that is dark and complicated: one where girls disappear, where Germans are not welcome, and where hate is fast to develop.
This is a complex and layered novel that is a deep and compelling read focusing on bullying and the impact of war. Appropriate for ages 10-13.
Reviewed from ARC received from Dutton Books for Young Readers