Sunday, November 14, 2010
Review: Pictures of Hollis Woods (Giff)
Author: Patricia Reilly Giff
Genre: YA fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
FTC Disclosure: I received this book as a gift and donated it to my school library
Summary (from the back of the book): Hollis Woods is the place where a baby was abandoned; is the baby's name; is an artist; is now a twelve-year-old girl who's been in so many foster homes she can hardly remember them all. Hollis Woods is a mountain of trouble. She runs away even from the Regans, the one family who offers her a home.
When Hollis is sent to Josie, an elderly artist who is quirky and affectionate, she wants to stay. But Josie is growing more forgetful every day. If Social Services finds out, they'll take Hollis away and move Josie into a home. Well, Hollis Woods won't let anyone separate them. She's escaped the system before; this time, she's taking Josie with her. Still, even as she plans her future with Josie, Hollis dreams of the past summer with the Regans, fixing each special moment of her days with them in pictures she'll never forget.
Review: I received this book as part of a holiday book swap (almost a year ago... yikes!) and didn't read it. I have no idea why. Then I donated it to my school library and kind of forgot about it until Bonnie of Bonnie's Books reminded me. I checked the book out immediately and finished it in just a couple days. Thank you Bonnie!
Hollis Woods is an incredible artist and she uses her talent to keep her special memories with her at all times. She draws draws the happy times in her life in colored pencil and keeps the pictures in her backpack. That way she can look at them when things aren't going so well and she can remember better times and people she cared about.
One of the things I really liked about this book was the alternating chapters. While one set of chapters is in the here-and-now, showing us Hollis' life as she sees it, the other set of chapters is based on Hollis' art work, each chapter discussing one of her pictures and the memories that are associated with it. In this way we learn of Hollis' past; her mistakes, her dreams, and her wishes. I really liked it when Beatrice (Josie's cousin) says to Hollis that we often don't really see what's going on when we look at our art, but that eventually the truth will reveal itself in our pictures. That is exactly what happens toward the end: Hollis Woods sees what she has missed all along.
The characters in this book are very real as well. There are so many older kids in the foster care system that get shuttled from one family to another, never really finding a "home". It's good that Hollis isn't a terror; so many books about foster children have them creating havoc wherever they go. Hollis is just looking for love, a family, and somewhere to fit in.
While searching for a cover photo for this post I discovered that the book was made into a movie! Sissy Spacek plays Josie, the elderly woman that Hollis Woods lives with.