HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Pictures of Hollis Woods
Author: Patricia Reilly Giff
Publisher: Yearling, reprinted 2004
ISBN-13: 978-0385326551 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 0385326556 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0439692397 Paperback
ISBN-10: 0440415787 Paperback
Related website(s): http://www.randomhouse.com/kids (publisher)
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 8 – 12
Rating: **** 4 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Giff, Patricia Reilly. Pictures of Hollis Woods (Published in 2002 by Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House Inc., 1540 Broadway, New York City, NY 10036). Twelve-year-old Hollis Woods, named for the place in New York City where she found was abandoned at birth, has lived in about a half dozen foster homes, so many that she can hardly remember them all, and has always wished for a real family. One of those foster caretakers describes her as “a mountain of trouble.” She even runs away from the Regans, the one family who offers her a home. When Hollis is sent to Josie Cahill an elderly retired art teacher and artist who is slightly eccentric but very affectionate, she wants to stay in her home on Long Island, NY. The two bond almost immediately as the artistically talented Hollis draws pictures with colored pencils and Josie carves branches into people.
However, it soon becomes clear that Josie has trouble remembering things, and is growing more forgetful every day, so Hollis becomes the caregiver. When she stops attending school, a social worker comes by to investigate. If Social Services finds out what is going on, they’ll take Hollis away and move Josie into a home. But Hollis won’t let anyone separate them. She’s escaped the system before, and this time she takes Josie with her. Still, even as she plans her future with Josie, Hollis dreams of the past summer with the Regans and longs for her life with them, fixing each special moment of her days with them in pictures she’ll never forget. Where do Hollis and Josie go? How can they survive? And will Hollis ever find a family?
In this warmhearted Newbery Honor Book about a girl who has never known family fighting for her first true home, author Patricia Reilly Giff, who also wrote Lily’s Crossing, another Newbery Honor Book, captures the yearning for a place to belong, stressing the importance of artistic vision, creativity, and above all, family. The interspersed flashbacks which slowly illuminate Hollis’s life with the Regan family—motherly Izzy, her architect husband John, and their mischievous yet compassionate son Steven—who had hoped to adopt her and why this didn’t happen, may make following the action a little confusing for some younger readers, as the tense circumstances under which she left them are only gradually made clear. However, the two threads are woven together in a surprising and satisfactory conclusion.