Breakout by Kate Messner

Breakout - Kate Messner

Audience: Grades 4 & up

Format: Hardcover/Library copy


Dear Library Board,

Enclosed is my contribution to the Wolf Creek Community Time Capsule Project.

- opening lines



Wolf Creek is located in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. The town is built around a maximum-security prison and most of the residents have a least one family member working there. The book is told from the point of view of three seventh graders. Nora’s dad is the superintendent, Lizzie’s grandmother works in the kitchen, and Elidee’s brother is an inmate. Nora and Lizzie are best friends and Elidee just moved there when she didn’t get into a private school in New York City. Elidee’s mom wanted to be closer to her brother to make it easier for them to visit him. The townspeople are mostly white and the inmate population is mostly black and Latinx. Elidee is at first standoffish but she eventually becomes friendly with Nora and Lizzie. Nora and Lizzie are surprised at the way the townspeople treat Elidee and how different it is from how they are treated. A couple of inmates escape from the prison and the action revolves around how the manhunt affects life in the town. The story is told through contributions to a time-capsule project for school. The contributions include letters, press clippings, text messages, and transcribed voice recordings.


There are dangerous and suspenseful situations, and some shooting, but no overt violence. Nora & Lizzie learn about racism and try to decide how they feel about it and how to stand up for Elidee. Elidee works through her complicated feelings about the town, her brother, and everything else by writing poetry. Issues about our justice system and racial bias are explored in an accessible and sensitive manner.