GoodReads Summary: Everyone in Arnn – a small farming town with more legends than residents – knows the story of Witchwood Hollow: if you venture into the whispering forest, the witch will trap your soul among the shadowed trees.
After losing her parents in a horrific terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, fifteen-year-old Honoria and her older brother escape New York City to Arnn. In the lure of that perpetual darkness, Honoria finds hope, when she should be afraid.
Perhaps the witch can reunite her with her lost parents. Awakening the witch, however, brings more than salvation from mourning, for Honoria discovers a past of missing children and broken promises.
To save the citizens of Arnn from becoming the witch’s next victims, she must find the truth behind the woman’s madness.
How deep into Witchwood Hollow does Honoria dare venture?
(I was given a free copy in exchange for an honest review.)
When I was young and the worlds within book covers opened up to my eager eyes, I read a book called Wait Till Helen Comes: A Ghost Story. It scared me a bit. It made me uncomfortable enough to hold onto the book, but never revisit.
Recently, my daughter, as avid a reader as her mother with the same strange interest in the unusual, asked me for book recommendations. The very same book that I held onto for years rested on the bookshelf I’d filled for her with my old Nancy Drew books and the few other favorites I’d outgrown and never kept on my own shelves. I picked it up and handed it to her. “It’s a ghost story,” I said. “It scared me when I was younger than you.”
Eagerly she reached for it and said, “Tell me about it.”
I couldn’t. I couldn’t remember the details. I couldn’t remember why it scared me. So being the woman who’s only not afraid of the dark when being a mother, I said we’d read it together and talk about it. I opened the book for the first time in years.
No, it didn’t not have that same sense of strangeness for me as it had when I was in elementary school. And, no, it didn’t scare my middle school daughter…too much. But I found I remembered with a distinct detachment exactly how I felt when I’d read the story for the first time. No, I wasn’t scared this time. But I knew, after finishing the last page, that it was still a favorite and would remain so. It was also probably the reason why, to this day I love mysteries, unsolved cases and ghosts.
This is how Escape from Witchwood Hollow made me feel. (And I can’t wait for my daughter to pour through the pages and ask me all the questions she comes up with.)
This book combines everything that should be combined in a “ghost” story. The legend evolved from the right mixture of history and mystery. The inclusion of the deep, dark woods and the warnings to stay away hint back to German folk tales told to keep children out of the Black Forest.
I don’t skim through reviews at all before reading a book I’ve been asked or volunteered to review. This way, I’m not influenced by what others think. I do, however, browse through them once I’ve finished, just to see and, if I’m feel contrary, explain why a reviewer may have felt the way they did.
I had to actually search for bad reviews for this one, there are so few. Glancing through them, I see a request for “more:” more character development, more history, more, more, more….
So while, I truly loved the book, I did come away thinking, “Well this could really be fleshed out into a seriously good 300-400 page novel.” But at the same time, I’m thinking of Wait Til Helen Comes, which also could have more depth.
I’m also thinking of my journey through the books in my city library as a kid. Downstairs, in the basement was an entire floor of kids’ books, specifically for beginning readers all the way up to maybe 5th grade reading. I remember, once I reached a certain age, being completely unsatisfied until my father guided me upstairs to the “adult” books and introduced me to my first “complex” read, The Princess Bride.
I would classify this book as perfect for young readers. It doesn’t tread down long roads of exposition that would bore the kid to death. It moves quickly enough to hold the interest of kids not yet ready to learn the reasons behind social classes and historical thought. It touches enough of history to whet the appetite to learn more. It hits subjects that could be perfect first steps into interest into recent history and the rampant emotions that come with it.
The descriptions of the natural setting turns Witchwood Hollow into another character itself, an unchanging bit of natural beauty and mystery that enchants some of us when we find the perfect place to sit and enjoy Mother Nature.
I may be of the minority when I say, don’t hold this book back from your children. Just because we’re uncomfortable talking about death, the afterlife and what happens when parents die, doesn’t mean there aren’t the inklings of those thoughts already creeping through the minds of children.
For me, it is rare to find that exceptionally good book aimed for the fleeting in-between children’s books and young adult novels. I didn’t find that many when I was a kid and at some point I just gave up. They either insulted my intelligence or were too politically correct to be anything other than some random words on a page pretending to be a story.
My kiddos have always read a bit above their prescribed grade level so they skipped the “chapter books” that most teachers require for daily reading times. My kiddos begged for something more to read when they reached that age and instead of simply not putting in the reading time for want of something to read, they asked me for recommendations. Armed with books aimed at high schoolers and a dictionary app for those words they couldn’t understand from context, they conquered books so easily, it was hard for me to keep up. Libraries aren’t dead, you know. You just have to know where to look.
Escape from Witchwood Hollow is one of those rare few that can claim imagination, open up conversations on deeper matters and perhaps, if we’re lucky create a lifelong interest in the mysteries of history.