The backdrop of rural Pennsylvania in the 1940’s creates a perfect setting for a story that focuses in on the many facets of bullying. Eleven-year-old Annabelle finds herself challenged by the new girl in town who likes nothing more than to assert her nasty disposition. But something inside of Annabelle refuses to cower to Betty’s violence. The care of a stranger far into the woods makes all the difference. A watchful eye in the distance belonging to a young man by the name of Toby, brings a sense of safety to Annabelle regardless of the fact that he is labeled town misfit.
Wolk does an incredible job anchoring the reader right away. I felt like I became a part of the family from the first page. The tension was perfectly placed, making me want to keep the pages turning. Annabelle’s benevolence and the innocent way she rooted for the underdog was endearing. The danger of her trust in somebody who was practically a stranger kept me on the edge of me seat through the entire story.
I highly recommend this middle grade novel for a reader of any age looking to acknowledge the misguided layers of discrimination and celebrate the beauty of what really can be found inside of a man’s soul. I feel educated by my brush with this period in history, and fed by the depth of character displayed.