What It Is About: The story takes us back to World War II in a small Pennsylvania town. Annabelle is the only daughter in a family of three children including her two younger brothers. Her life has been pretty "uneventful" until Betty Glengarry (don't you love that name) moves into town. Betty makes life for Annabelle unbearable. She teases, torments, and bullies Annabelle. Betty also takes a boy named Andy under her wings to assist in her missions. When a friend of Annabelle's gets hurt on the school playground, Annabelle knows Betty is behind it, but Betty turns the focus on a town resident named Toby. Toby is a World War I veteran and has been the talk of the town's people as an "odd" man and people should keep their distance. Annabelle befriends Toby and feels like she knows the "real" man. When Betty disappears, everyone believes that Toby is responsible. Annabelle and her family do everything in their power to help, hide, and clear his name before it is too late.
What I Thought Of It: I Tweeted last night around 1:30 AM that I was trying to finish the book, but my eyes were not cooperating. I got up early this morning and finished this wonderful and powerful story. I'm not normally a huge fan of historical fiction, but I absolutely loved this story. The writing was beautiful, the characters were developed deeply, and the time and place worked perfectly. The plot took its time to unfold, but never dragged or felt slow. The mystery that Lauren Wolk laid out was thought provoking and engaging. I was guessing how events would turn out until the very end of the story. I always love when a book has a "tender" protagonist and an "evil" antagonist and this story delivered on both fronts. One of the best middle-grade books I've read this summer.
Who Should Read It: I'm so excited to use this novel when we cover our historical fiction unit next school year. I'm going to use it as a read aloud and I know my fourth graders are going to love this story. It has all the elements that I teach with historical fiction. The book could be handled by independent readers that are in fifth and sixth grade. If you know a strong reader in fourth grader, I think they would find it a satisfying read. I highly recommend it to adult readers that enjoy strong middle-grade stories, strong historical fiction, and strong female driven stories. Happy Reading!
Rating: 5 STARS out of 5 Stars