There is no profanity or sexual content in this book. There is very mild violence—a girl slips and falls on a mountain trail, injuring herself; there is a truck accident that injures two children. Nothing is described in detail. Mature themes consist of abandonment and neglect, foster care, and rebelliousness (a girl skips school repeatedly). Everything in the novel is handled extremely gently. As such, Pictures of Hollis Woods is recommended as a Squeaky Clean Read for ages 9+.
This book would be wonderful to potentially use as a book club or reading group book in a fourth or fifth grade classroom. I think it could definitely spark some deep discussion between students, as the events could either be close to students' hearts, or be something they have never come close to experiencing. I would also recommend this book for slightly advanced readers because it may be confusing for students while it changes back and forth between flashbacks and real-time. "Pictures of Hollis Woods" is also written in a way where the characters' thoughts and feelings are not always stated directly, leaving much room for interpretation. This book would create wonderful discourse and help students to practice many reading strategies. I really enjoyed this book and truly believe that fourth and fifth grade students will as well!
The author has painted us a picture, one long, deep, full picture of Hollis Woods, a tough orphan no one can handle. Nothing has been left out of this picture. We see Hollis, see right through her toughness, see her from different angles, see her until we know the real Hollis Woods. And that Hollis Woods just wants a family. Just wants to belong.
Patricia Reilly Giff's work titled 'Pictures of Hollis Woods' is a story of the title character's life as a member of a multiple foster homes. Hollis Woods is a young girl who runs away from a family who wants her, the Reagans. They offer her a home, but she rejects them. When Hollis is sent to Josie, an elderly woman, who is a quirky artist, it is the first place that she wants to stay. But Giff injects conflict into the narrative structure when she reveals that Josie is suffering with the loss of her memory daily. She is becoming more and more forgetful. The secret of this life within the home affects Hollis because she doesn't want Social Services to find out about Josie. If they do, then they will take her away from Josie. In fact, Hollis is more concerned that Social Services will move Josie into a home. Keeping Social Services from discovering the truth of her home situation becomes Hollis's mission. She won't let Social Services separate her and Josie. Her previous escape motivates her to develop a plan for her and Josie to also escape. It is here where Giff injects an emotional conflict. Hollis desires to be with the Reagan's, fixing her memory of the family in mental pictures.