Reilly, P.R. (2002). Pictures of Hollis Wooods. Wendy Lamb Books.
2003 ALA Notable Children’s Book
2003 Newbery Honor Book
Interest Level: 5-8
Reading Level: 6.4
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Subjects: Family life, Orphans, Artist, Foster home care, Old age, New York (state), Love

“If someone looks into your eyes, I read in a book one time, he’ll see right into your soul. I didn’t want anyone to see into my soul.” – Hollis Woods

Pictures of Hollis Woods is a story of the power of love, and the way it changes forever the life of twelve year old Hollis Woods, an orphan, and abandoned as a baby. Feeling deeply unwanted and unloved, Hollis is moved from one foster home to another, fueling the ever growing anger inside of her. Unable to bond or connect with any of the foster families she has been placed with, Hollis runs away from most of them before they have a chance to request she be removed.  Hollis is eventually placed with a real family; a father, the Old Man, Izzy, the mother, and a boy named Steven. The Regan’s grow to love Hollis and want to adopt her, but after a tragic accident injures both Hollis and Steven, she runs away again, feeling guilty and responsible for what happened. She vows never to return, convincing herself that they didn’t really want her after all.

Hollis’  heart is softened, when she is placed with an elderly retired art teacher, Josie, and her cat Henry. It is here that Hollis learns to give of herself, and to find an appreciation in her talent of drawing, opening up to give love and be loved as she helps Josie who suffers from memory loss, in her day to day living. Hollis’ social worker, Mrs. Mustard, realizes Josie’s problem and prepares to place Hollis in a different foster home yet again. To prevent being removed from Josie’s care, leaving Josie alone, Hollis decides to run away and take Josie with her. They run to the Regan’s summer home, currently boarded up for the winter. Here the two of them spend Christmas together, sharing homemade gifts and love. And, alerted by social services, the Regan’s know just where to find Hollis; the one place she called home. .. In the end, love wins, for all!

This story, while written as a tween novel, and is rich with emotion and experiences many can relate to. Feelings of insecurity, loneliness, self-doubt, anger, and hurt, are emotions we can all identify with, just as feelings of love and the need to belong are. Pictures of Hollis Woods is a treasure with the turn of each page, a story you won’t want to end. The lessons of love woven through the pages of this book, much like Hollis’ drawings of her memories, will remain with the reader forever. Those who enjoyed the books Wild Things by Clay Carmichael, or The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron will find Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff an inspirational and memorable novel.

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