Jonesport Elementary School fifth graders had the opportunity to connect virtually with author Lauren Wolk about her Newbery Honor-winning book, Wolf Hollow. They read the novel aloud in class last fall, an annual tradition teacher Marni Crowley started after Lauren visited Jonesport in 2017. Like many authors have done during the pandemic, Lauren and her publishing house, Penguin Random House, generously offered a free virtual visit and IRW was pleased to help facilitate and take part.
These kids had begun working on research and projects around Wolk’s newest book Echo Mountain, as they were slated to be part of a book launch hosted by IRW scheduled for mid-May, when Covid-19 forced a suspension of the program. Even though the virtual visit was not quite the same as meeting the author in person, there was still lively conversation and great questions. We connected via Google Hangouts, Brady Bunch style, with little windows of students’ faces across the screen.
Lauren relayed that in many ways fifth grade was one of the best times of her life. “What inspired you to write?” asked one girl with a calico cat on her lap. “I always start with the place,” Lauren told her. “I pick a place where I want to be and bring people into that world through the senses.”
“What inspired the character of Betty?” asked a young man. (Betty is the bully in the book.) Wolk explained how two experiences, one of her own and one of her mother’s, came together to form Betty. “When you think about bullies,” she asked the kids, “why do you think some people are that way?” A student piped in, “I think it was something to do with her parents.” Lauren said she receives many letters from boys who liked her character, Annabelle, the protagonist in Wolf Hollow, and she wondered if it matters to them as readers whether the main character is a boy or a girl. The response was mixed. She wrapped up the session by reading the first few pages of Echo Mountain, her newly-released historical fiction novel set in Maine during the Great Depression. Lauren has a knack for hooking the reader with thought-provoking opening lines and this one doesn’t disappoint. We can’t wait to bring her to visit with kids in Maine again.