Booktalk for HIDDEN by Helen Frost

When they’re 14 years old, Wren and Darra end up cabinmates at a summer camp in Michigan. They’ve never met, exactly, but they share a secret history that changed both their lives.

It all started six years earlier with Wren. She stays in the van listening to music and playing with her doll one day while her mom runs in to pay for gas and buy a soda. Suddenly there’s a gunshot. Wren dives under a blanket in the back. When the van door opens, she’s about to sit up and ask her mom what happened inside. But then a man’s voices says some words her mom would never say. He starts up the van and takes off, not knowing Wren is hidden back there.

That driver who robs the store and steals the minivan is Darra’s dad, an out-of-work mechanic. He parks the van in his family’s garage, and Wren is trapped in the dark. She can’t get out. She’s hungry. She doesn’t know if her mom is alive. She’s afraid of what will happen if the man finds her. Hours and hours drag by.

Inside the house, Wren’s story comes on the news. Darra figures out that the missing girl is locked in her garage. Her dad didn’t mean to kidnap Wren, but it happened. And if anyone finds out — about the girl or the stolen vehicle — her dad will be in serious trouble. Darra leaves food and water in the garage. But most importantly, she’s working on a plan so that her dad doesn’t get caught.

When Darra and Wren meet as teenagers, neither one wants to talk about what happened when they were eight. But the memories are strong, and feelings come boiling to the surface.

Genre: realistic fiction, novel in verse

Grades 5-9.


Anna’s take on it:

Hidden was an easy choice to go on my list of best books that I booktalked in 2016. Sixth and seventh grade girls, in particular, flocked to it.

I originally encountered this title as an audiobook, and I didn’t realize until I saw a print copy months later that it was a novel in verse. With the compelling storyline and accessible poetry, this would be a good one to hand to kids who haven’t experienced verse novels before.

When I booktalk this title, I usually read the first two pages aloud to the class, rather than paraphrase the opening action. The kids aren’t expecting the line, “And then she heard / a gunshot / from inside the store.”