Pictures of Hollis Woods

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Pictures of Hollis Woods
Pictures of Hollis Woods cover.jpg
Author Patricia Reilly Giff
Illustrator no pictures
Country United States
Language English
Genre Realistic fiction
Publisher [Random House Children's Books]
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages 166
ISBN 9780440415787

Pictures of Hollis Woods is a 2002 young adult novel by Patricia Reilly Giff. The novel received a Newbery Honor Award in 2003. It was adapted for television in 2007.

Plot summary[edit]

Pictures of Hollis Woods is the story of an 11[1]-year-old orphan girl (Hollis Woods) who has been moved to countless foster families during her life. She was originally abandoned at birth by her mother in a local park, with a scrap of paper instructing that she be named Hollis Woods after the park. Her current foster home is with an kindly older artist named Josie, who treats Hollis with love but is beginning to lose her memory and independence. Hollis realizes quickly that despite Josie's good intentions, she is unable to care for Hollis as a guardian should, forgetting to take Hollis to school and to buy groceries. Hollis fears returning to the home of a former foster mother who she calls "the stucco woman", where she is neglected and mistreated. She knows that if Josie's forgetfulness is discovered, her social worker will send Hollis to another foster home. When she is confronted by the social worker, who attempts to scrutinize Josie's care, Hollis convinces Josie that they need to leave town.

Hollis' story is also punctuated by flashbacks to her penultimate foster home, with a family called the Regans. The father, whom Hollis calls Old Man, and the mother, whom Hollis calls Izzy, are extremely kind and welcoming to Hollis, even despite her standoffish exterior due to such frequent relocation. Old Man and Izzy both care for Hollis deeply, nurturing her love for drawing through gifts and praise of her ability. The Regans also have a son named Steven, who Hollis becomes close friends with during the summer that she lives with them in their summer home, Branches. Branches is in the mountains, and has a lake and woods where Hollis and Steven explore. Hollis insists that she is determined to someday climb the mountain nearest them, which Steven dismisses, saying it's too tall and dangerous due to frequent mudslides.

After this extremely happy summer, the Regans ask Hollis if they can adopt her. Hollis is overwhelmed and agrees, feeling loved and accepted into a family for the first time in her life. She secretly leaves the house the next day to climb the mountain, a final celebratory gesture before she becomes a part of the family. However, her journey takes longer than she expected, and she ends up climbing down the mountain in darkness, falling and hurting herself. Fortunately, Steven remembered her plan to climb the mountain and drives the family truck up to find her. They begin to descend the mountain in the truck, but the darkness and slipperiness of the path causes Steven to lose control and crash, injuring himself. Hollis panics, and it is later revealed that even though Steven is fine, she refuses to join the Regan family, believing that she was responsible for his injury and that she doesn't belong with the Regans. The Regans, though heartbroken, accept her decision, causing her to be removed from their home and to be relocated to Josie's.

Hollis decides that she will take Josie to Branches to hide from her social worker, knowing that the Regans will be in their winter home as it's nearly Christmas. She struggles to care for both herself and Josie in the cabin, where there is little food and poor heating. Josie becomes more and more confused, forgetting why they left town in the first place and telling Hollis that she misses Beatrice, a cousin whom she was close to. Hollis attempts to fish in the woods to provide some food, but sees a distant figure that she assumes is a fisherman. Fearing discovery, she runs away. Josie and Hollis celebrate Christmas together in Branches, giving each other small gifts. Hollis eventually realizes that Josie can no longer care for Hollis or herself, and calls Beatrice, asking her to take Josie in. Beatrice agrees, and Hollis resigns herself to returning to foster care with a new family. However, she encounters Steven, who has come to the cabin feeling that she would be there. He reveals that he was the fisherman in the woods, and has been replenishing the food and gas in the house to ensure Hollis and Josie could survive there. He asks Hollis to come back to the Regans to be a part of their family, and she agrees.

A brief epilogue shows Hollis as a member of the Regan family, having been legally adopted and changing her name. She now lives happily with Steven, Old Man, Izzy, and her new baby sister, Christina. She finally experiences peace and acceptance, being part of a family that, while unconventional, is hers. Hollis woods thinks that she is a "mountain of trouble."


Hollis Woods - A 11[2]-year-old foster girl who keeps moving from family to family and has a talent to draw which moves through the story with her adventures.

The Regans - Old man, Izzy, and Steven. They want Hollis to be a part of her family even though she pushes them away.

Josie - An elderly retired art teacher who adores Hollis. She develops Alzheimer's disease and Hollis must learn to be responsible and to protect her.

Beatrice - Josie's cousin who she is very close to. She is also a retired art teacher like Josie and now owns a movie theater.

Henry - Josie's irritable cat.

Stucco Woman - A woman Hollis used to live with. She describes Hollis as a mountain of trouble.

Mustard Woman - A social worker responsible for finding Hollis a family. The Old Man/Father - The father of Steven who wanted to adopt Hollis.

Critical reception[edit]

Critics praised Giff's work in this book.

According to the School Library Journal, "Giff masterfully weaves these two strands together in a surprising and satisfying ending. Strong characterization and a solid sense of place are the strengths of this heartfelt story that will appeal to fans of Sharon Creech's Ruby Holler (2002), Katherine Paterson's The Great Gilly Hopkins (1978, both Harper Collins), and Zilpha Keatley Snyder's Gib Rides Home (Delacorte, 1998)".[3]

Kirkus reviews states that Giff "expertly portrays the intense, heartfelt emotions Hollis experiences and gives her talent and spunk; she is in no way pathetic, despite her perennial foster-childhood. The secondary characters are also completely drawn and are likable without being too good to be true. This touching story will leave readers pleasantly drained, satisfied with the happy ending, and eager for more about Hollis's future".[4]

Publishers Weekly also stated that "Giff intersperses tender scenes demonstrating Hollis's growing affection for Josie with memories of the Regans, whose images Hollis preserves in her sketchbook".[5]

The Horn Book Magazine has reviewed the book as "a remarkably well-observed novel, weaving gracefully back and forth in time and replete with humor derived primarily from Hollis's candor and tough talk. The tracing of Hollis's relationship with Josie and her foster brother, Steven Regan, is especially well drawn".[6]

Booklist has also described the novel positively by stating that "Veteran author Giff has a sure hand with language, and the narrative is taut and absorbing".[7]


Newbery Medal Honor Book in 2003.

Film adaptation[edit]

The Hallmark Hall of Fame film Pictures of Hollis Woods debuted on CBS December 2, 2007. It was directed by Tony Bill and stars Jodelle Ferland as Hollis Woods.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Twelve," I said, bumping it up almost a year, "and tough." p. 15
  2. ^ "Twelve," I said, bumping it up almost a year, "and tough." p. 15
  3. ^ Gaffney, Jean, et al. "Pictures Of Hollis Woods." School Library Journal 48.9 (2002): 225. Academic Search Complete. Web. 26 Nov. 2014.
  4. ^ Wendy, Sept. 10, 2002. "Pictures of Hollis Woods." Kirkus Reviews. Web. 25 Nov 2014
  5. ^ Davis,Hope. "Pictures of Hollis Woods." Publishers Weekly. Web. 25 Nov 2014
  6. ^ Beram, Nell. "Pictures Of Hollis Woods (Book Review) (Undetermined)." Horn Book Magazine 79.1 (2003): 72-73. Book Review Digest Plus (H.W. Wilson). Web. 26 Nov. 2014.
  7. ^ DeCandido, GraceAnne A. "Pictures Of Hollis Woods." Booklist 99.4 (2002): 404. Academic Search Complete. Web. 26 Nov. 2014.