Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk is an award winning novel about 12-year-old Annabelle McBride as she grows up in the shadow of World War I and in the midst of World War II. It takes place in a small rural town in western Pennsylvania called Wolf Hollow. The story begins: "The year I turned twelve, I learned how to lie."
Annabelle's quiet life on her family farm in Wolf Hollow is disrupted when a new girl, Betty, comes to town. Annabelle McBride lives with her loving parents, grandparents, little brothers Henry and James, and her cantankerous Aunt Lily. She lives comfortably but is not rich. However, this doesn't stop Betty from bullying her, demanding that Annabelle give Betty something of value - or else. Betty is a pretty blonde girl who lives with her grandparents, the kind Glengarry's, but Annabelle quickly finds out that Betty is a cruel bully. Betty is perceived as being a sweet young girl but Annabelle knows the truth. Betty has physically hurt Annabelle and threatened the lives of her little brothers. Despite the torment, Annabelle decides to keep the abuse a secret. She is too afraid to come forward and decides that it is better for her to handle it on her own. This is the lie that will shape the rest of the story.
Also in Wolf Hollow lives the mysterious Toby. He fought as a young man in World War I and ever since experiencing that trauma, he has lived a life of solitude. Toby presents as though he is "shell shocked" or suffering from post traumatic stress. He roams the countryside in a black trench coat, unkempt with long hair and a long beard. Toby always carries three guns with him. His appearance makes many in town wary of him. However, the McBrides know him to be harmless and look out for Toby. While he is quiet, having barely said a word to any of them, Toby has shown kindness. He once helped Annabelle by carrying her a mile back to her house when she had twisted her ankle while playing. Annabelle's mother looks on Toby with sympathy and often gives him food from their farm or some of her delectable pies. Annabelle's family has a camera which they won in a contest. While their farming family does not have much use for it, they offer it to Toby to use for free. Toby uses their camera to take beautiful landscape pictures of the countryside. His stunning photographs are hung all around his tiny shack in the woods.
One day, Betty is terrorizing Annabelle when Toby steps in to defend her. He gruffly rebuffs Betty for her cruelty. From then on, Betty sees Toby as her enemy. One day at recess, Annabelle and her friend Ruth admire the horses of an apple seller, Mr. Ansel. While petting the horses, a rock is thrown in their direction. Ruth is tragically struck directly in the eye and horribly injured. In the chaos, some people believed that perhaps the rock was aimed for Mr. Ansel, who is of German heritage, given the anti-German sentiment during the war. Annabelle knows that the rock came from the hillside but she did not see who threw it. She has her suspicions, however, that it was Betty. When confronted, Betty begins telling lies that she saw the culprit and claims it was Toby! Given their mistrust of Toby to begin with, the townsfolk easily believe her.
Annabelle finally confesses that Betty has been bullying her and tries to clear Toby's name but to no avail. Then, one day Betty does not arrive at school and is believed to be kidnapped. Toby is nowhere to be found, and the townsfolk all believe Toby is responsible for harming young Ruth and behind Betty's disappearance. A posse forms to search for Betty.
Annabelle sneaks out and finds Toby. She warns him that the police are after him and he must hide. Annabelle hides Toby in her family's barn and the two become close as Toby shares his tragic experiences in the war. Annabelle has the idea that Toby should join the posse and look for Betty in disguise. She says that it could help clear his name. She helps him cut his long hair and shaves his scraggly beard so he looks more presentable and completely unrecognizable. So much so that spiteful Aunt Lily, who always had something negative to say about Toby, finds this new gentleman to be quite charming. She has no idea that it is really Toby.
In disguise, Toby is the one who finds Betty in a well and makes the daring rescue to save her. The townsfolk are all impressed and everyone calls him a hero. Betty, however, is gravely injured as she was impaled when she fell. She had been trying to frame Toby all along by planting false evidence in his shack. Even in the hospital Betty continues to blame Toby and will not own up to hurting Ruth. She claims that it was Toby who pushed her into the well. Betty succumbs to her injuries and dies. After her death, there is a manhunt for Toby. Everyone is out for justice. Annabelle tries to convince Toby to stay hidden in her barn because she knows the truth and wants to protect him from harm. Toby says that he is tired of hiding and ventures out alone.
While on the run, Toby is killed by law enforcement despite being non-violent because he had the guns on his back. After his death, they found that the guns were useless and damaged beyond repair seemingly from his time in the war. Annabelle is devastated. Annabelle gets Betty's friend Andy to prove that Toby was innocent and confess that Betty was behind it all. However, Toby's absolution is too late. A funeral is held for Toby and in the preparations it is learned that Toby had earned the Purple Heart for his valiant service in the war.
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