Pictures of Hollis Woods

Recently my classroom was blessed with new a TON of new books!  I have always participated in Scholastic Book Clubs and during the month of December I earned a lot of free books and bonus points.  I seriously am so in love with them- I head up the Book Clubs for my classroom and always end up with free books and a lot of bonus points.  True, I spend some of my points on books that I want to read, but mainly they go back into my class library.. I get giddy when I see how much it is growing!

Pictures of Hollis WoodsOne of the new books I picked up for the class is by Patricia Reilly Giff {I soooo loved Polk Street School} titled Pictures of Hollis Woods.  I didn't know much of anything about the book aside from the fact it dealt with foster care and "bad" kids.  I just picked it up and read it.  I am glad I did.

Hollis Woods was an orphan- found on a doorstep fresh from birth, with nothing but a note saying to name her Hollis Woods.  With no connection, Hollis is thrown into the system as a young orphan.  Bounced around from foster home to foster home, Hollis is described as "a mountain of trouble".  Too bad she listens- at 12 years old, Hollis believes she really is trouble and that she is more of a burden than a blessing.  She's the type of kid who runs.  Hollis runs from every situation that gets a bit too scary- and the folks at her agency are quite thrilled when a retired art teacher accepts the proposal to take Hollis is.  As Hollis is told, she works wonders with... kids- Hollis knows that really means she works wonders with kids like her, kids that are a mountain of trouble.
Hollis moves in with Josie Cahill- a stunning women who loves large and has an amazing talent with wood.  Unfortunately (or fortunately?), Josie is slowing forgetting- losing herself to dementia.  Through this, Hollis finds a purpose.  She realizes she has to stick around this time, if only to help Josie through her struggle.  Since Josie forgets a lot, she never notices that Hollis rarely goes to school.  The agency does though.  Sent to retrieve Hollis and send her to another foster home, the "lady with mustard on her sweats" finds Josie and Hollis missing.  Hollis couldn't leave Josie, so instead she ran away- this time taking her foster parent with her.  They run away to a place Hollis called home- the summer house of one of her previous foster families.  Hollis ran from them as well, even though her life with them was almost perfect.  As she comes to terms with running, family and life, Hollis grows up beyond her age throughout the story- with an amazing discovery of what it means to love someone.

Pictures of Hollis Woods is told from the perspective of Hollis through her artwork.  Chapters are titled by "Pictures" or "Time with Josie".  Through the vivid descriptions of Hollis' artwork, the reader rides along with her as she remembers a time in her life when she finally felt loved and was beginning to feel complete.  We uncover the truth behind her running and see what the future holds for this beautiful, strong, talented and wise-beyond-her-years heroine.

I would suggest this book to parents, teachers, social workers, foster care families and young readers alike.  There is a lot to be learned from the eyes of a child, and Giff gives the reader an inside look at foster care and how neglected children feel.  It also will shed some light on why young people act the way they do- especially if they have a history of trauma or neglect in their lives.  Not particularly deep when it comes to the raw nerve of a child in foster care, but definitely an insight into the mind of a sad and lonely child. 

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

1 comment:

  1. This sounds fantastic! It's a subject you don't read a lot about.