"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Lunch Bunch Book Group Reads Wolf Hollow

My fifth grade lunch bunch and I read Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk. It was an incredible experience, as indicated by both the conversations we had and their willingness to miss recess from May into June and even during the last week of school. These twenty students would not miss a day. This review in the New York Times sums up the power and authenticity of the story. That ending? Wow. We met for an additional session just to discuss how the students were feeling about the ending and what they thought it all meant.

A bit about the book from the publisher:

"Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount."

During our final discussion, one of the boys shared something about Toby and his guns, their weight, and his final motion to remove them that showed maturity and understanding and ignited a moving conversation about guilt and the emotional baggage that we carry with us. This war hero carried so much guilt for what he had had to do.

Another moving conversation occurred while discussing Betty's death, with students grappling with her bad deeds but terrible death. They also wanted to talk about remorse and felt that she likely died not feeling badly about anything she had done. Wow.

The students often doodle or draw while I read. These creations allow me see what resonates with them apart from what I learn during discussions.    

There was a Friday when we could not meet, so I copied two chapters for them to read. I encouraged the students to write in the margins - to add questions and comments. This was another opportunity to hear from the students beyond our discussions.

I will not soon forget the experience of reading Wolf Hollow with these students. My new library schedule does not allow for a lunch bunch book group, so this may have been my last. In which case, what a way to go out. Thank you, Lauren Wolk, for this book, which created a bond between me and these students and for the memories I will hold onto.

The year I turned twelve, I learned how to lie.

     I don’t mean the small fibs that children tell. I mean real lies fed by real fears—things I said and did that took me out of the life I’d always known and put me down hard into a new one.

     It was the autumn of 1943 when my steady life began to spin, not only because of the war that had drawn the whole world into a screaming brawl, but also because of the dark-hearted girl who came to our hills and changed everything.

     At times, I was so confused that I felt like the stem of a pinwheel surrounded by whir and clatter, but through that whole unsettling time I knew that it simply would not do to hide in the barn with a book and an apple and let events plunge forward without me. It would not do to turn twelve without earning my keep, and by that I meant my place, my small authority, the possibility that I would amount to something.

     But there was more to it than that.

     The year I turned twelve, I learned that what I said and what I did mattered.

     So much, sometimes, that I wasn’t sure I wanted such a burden.

     But I took it anyway, and I carried it as best I could.

Read more of the excerpt here.


  1. Dear Jennifer. I am honored. Thank you so much for such incredible devotion to your students and for sharing my work with them. I hope there will be a way to fit a lunch brunch book group into the schedule. Perhaps the other leaders at the school will share your enthusiasm for an activity that has so clearly engaged your students in meaningful and joyful learning. All my best, Lauren Wolk