The Plot In Five Sentences Or Less: Every year the members of the Proctectorate have taken an infant and left it in the woods as a sacrifice to the witch. Unbeknownst to them, the witch, who name is Xan, has shepherded each baby to another town so that it can be raised by a loving family. One year, however, Xan accidentally feeds a baby with moonlight, thereby enmagicking it. She names the girl Luna and raises her by her side. As Luna’s powers develop, her past comes calling in the form of two women: one that has gone insane and another that feeds on sorrow and prowls with a tiger’s heart.
My Take: This was an engrossing read and worthy of its winning the Newberry Medal. Barnhill has the ability to create a fantasy world that is convincing but not indulgent. Her writing moves the narrative along at a good clip while also taking the time to build the characters. I particularly appreciated that so much of the story revolves around, in several forms, a mother’s attachment – or lack thereof -for her child. You can tell that Barnhill enjoys exploring this subject from several different angles, ultimately arriving at a positive answer.
One Interesting Note About The Author: On her website, Barnhill describes herself as a “former teacher, former bartender, former waitress, former activist, former park ranger, former secretary, former janitor and former church-guitar-player.”
The Plot In Five Sentences Or Less: Annabelle is a 12 year old girl living on a farm in rural Pennsylvania in the autumn of 1943. Betty is a new girl at school who jumps Annabelle on her way home one afternoon in the deep recess of Wolf Hollow, a low, dark place that runs between the school and Annabelle’s farm. Betty threatens to beat her with a stick and hurt her younger brothers if she tells anyone. The one witness to this cruelty is Toby, a local homeless man with a mysterious past who wanders the local woods. The tension culminates is a violent incident that turns the town against Toby and makes Annabelle realizes that she is the only person who can protect him.
My Take: This was a book that gripped me from the opening pages and then expanded into a conversation about larger themes. I appreciated that author Lauren Wolk takes no time in introducing the character of Betty Glengarry who immediately provides a source of danger and conflict. She’s a wonderful antagonist that fills the narrative with a tension that makes you want to continue reading. Later on, as we get to know the character of Toby, we are asked to make sense of a more complicated character: a man who is obviously troubled, perhaps dangerous, but also show signs of warmth and kindness. When we learn the source of Toby’s demons, we are hoping that the community will show wisdom and patience in how it treats with him. This is a wonderful book that will encourage readers to ask questions about the homeless, the mentally ill, PTSD, and the ambiguous consequences of deception. I can certainly understand why Wolf Hollow won a Newberry Honor earlier this year.
One Interesting Note About The Author: Lauren Wolk has a new book out entitled Beyond The Bright Sea that is already creating some Newberry chatter for 2018.