May 6, 2007

Pictures of Hollis Woods - by Patricia Reilly Giff

Have you ever noticed that there are a lot of kids’ books out there about orphans? This is one more on that list, but it’s one of the best. Reminiscent of Katherine Paterson’s The Great Gilly Hopkins, this story focuses on Hollis Woods, a troublesome girl with no family, shifting from home to home, never staying long before running away. Is she really as bad as everyone thinks, though? Or has she just had a streak of bad luck? Follow Hollis through this book as she meets some new folks who will change her life forever, gets herself into more trouble than she ever would have imagined, and finds salvation in a way you wouldn’t have expected.

This immensely enjoyable story follows an interesting format, bouncing between the present and flashbacks of Hollis’s past homes, and focusing on a new picture in each chapter. The pictures are those that Hollis (quite a gifted artist) drew, and though they’re never shown, the reader can picture them as clear as day. The format helps the book build to an exciting, emotional climax that will leave you breathless, but smiling.

This book is appropriate for a good fourth grade reader, but can be enjoyed for years beyond that without feeling too childish. It will appeal to readers who enjoy stories about strong girls, the importance of family, becoming artists, and journeys that bring characters understanding about themselves.