Title: Pictures of Hollis Woods
Author: Patricia Reilly Giff
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Genre: Modern Realistic Fiction
Number of Pages: 166
Pub. Date: 2002
Hollis is a talented artist and her life stories unfold through her pictures. One revealing picture is the "W" picture Hollis drew for a first grade class assignment on the letter "w". Hollis drew her Wish, her Want. She drew a picture of a family. Hollis had that family in the Regan's and was finally going to have that family that she always dreamed of, and went up on a mountain to celebrate her new beginning, but hurt herself doing it. The son of the family, Steven, came to rescue her, but crashed the truck on the way down. She blamed herself for the accident and ran away. After running away from her foster placement with the Regan family, Hollis is placed with a new foster mother, the loving, retired art teacher, Josie Cahill. She loves it there and shares the love of water and art with Josie, but as Josie's forgetfulness grows worse, Hollis is forced into the role of caretaker. She takes Josie away to the Regan’s summer house to avoid having to be placed in another foster home. She is growing scared of her inability to continue to care for Josie and feels bad for separating her from her sister. The mysterious person that has been leaving gifts for them turns out to be Steven and she is able to go back home with the Regan family because Josie’s sister moves in with her to take care of her.
Critique: This story fits into the category of realistic fiction about becoming one’s own person. It tells the story of a young girl who is going through the transitions of foster homes and trying to find who her true family is and where she really belongs. The story definitely pulls at the readers heartstrings by holding the contemporary readers interest and connecting to their emotions by making the story authentic and sincere. The story is written in a flashback form, so every other chapter is a flashback from her time with the Regans, which keeps the reader intrigued about how it all came together. The character of Hollis is also a very talented little girl who just wants a family that wants her for who she truly is. She is able to be herself around people like the Regans and Josie, unlike the other foster people that only saw her as trouble. This really makes her a complex and realistic character which the audience can relate to in her battle for a desire to be accepted.
Response: In Pictures of Hollis Woods, I really like the parts where Hollis describes the scene in the colors she would use to draw it. Like when she describes a mountain scene she talks about bringing some of her favorite colors like French Blue and shades of green or when she’s talking about the writing on the cake her new mother made for her she talks about how she had to use a really sharp red pencil in order to get it to look just like the real cake. Her color descriptions really let you into Hollis’ perspective by seeing things through her artistic perspective. I am not a very good artist myself, so reading about how she almost sees the scenes though the colors she would use was really interesting and inspiring to me.
Assignment:Lesson Plan: What is Your W Picture?
Have the students create an image using any medium they prefer to create their perfect "W" picture. This could be modified for many grade levels, doing only pictures for younger students and a picture along with a description or writing of why they chose to create that drawing and why they decided on that type of medium. Perhaps they could create a water color piece or a family out of clay.