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Richie's Picks: PICTURES OF HOLLIS WOODS,
This review is from: Pictures of Hollis Woods (Library Binding)
"This picture has a dollop of peanut butter on one edge, a smear of grape jelly on the other, and an X across the whole thing. I cut it out of a magazine for homework when I was six years old. 'Look for words that begin with W,' my teacher, Mrs. Evans, had said.
"She was the one who marked in the X, spoiling my picture. She pointed. ' This is a picture of a family, Hollis. A mother, M, a father, F, a brother, B, a sister, S. They're standing in front of their house, H. I don't see one W word here, young lady.'
"I opened my mouth to say: How about W for wish, or W for want, or W for 'Wouldn't it be loverly,' like the song the music teacher had taught us?
"But Mrs. Evans was at the next table by that time, shushing me over her shoulder."
PICTURES OF HOLLIS WOODS is one of this year's most beautiful and most well-crafted tales. With the piles of new books I have waiting for me to read, it is rare for me to read a book twice, no less twice in successive days. But that's how strongly this one has affected me.
"...'Drawing is what you see of the world, truly see.'
" 'Yes, maybe,' I said, not sure what she meant.
" 'And sometimes what you see is so deep in your head you're not even sure of what you're seeing. But when it's down there on paper, and you look at it, really look, you'll see the way things are...' "
Hollis Woods is an artistic foster child whose troubled past has been marked by a succession of stops:
"There was the green house where the door didn't quite close; the wind blew in and up the stairs, rattling the window panes. The white house: crumbs on the table, kids fighting over a bag of Wonder bread. The yellow house: sooty, a long-haired woman with braids, no rugs on the stairs, the loud sound of feet going up and down..."
But Hollis Woods dreams of having a family. And she nearly got her wish thanks to the Regans--the Old Man, Izzie, and Steven--who had taken her in for a summer in Upstate New York.
Then something destroyed that perfect picture, and Hollis, who has now been placed in the home of the beautiful, old artist, Josie Cahill, is trying to come to terms with what happened last summer...and trying to deal with the secret of why Josie might have to be taken away from her, too.
"I frowned. 'Look at a picture one way and you'll see one thing,' I said. 'Look again and you might see something else. That's what the Old Man...' I shook my head. 'A friend of mine said that once.'
" 'Ah, yes,' Beatrice said, sketching in an eye, bushy eyebrows, sharp lashes as she spoke. 'But that's the world, isn't it? You have to keep looking to find the truth.' "
PICTURES OF HOLLIS WOODS is a poignant story of family and how those without traditional families frequently fall prey to The System. It includes the mystery about the summer's tragedy, and a love story about water. The author, who grew up around the corner from my Dad's family in Queens and not far from the community of Hollis Woods, sketches vivid landscapes of the woods and the water--the Atlantic Ocean and the Delaware River. Both simple and deceptively complex, this book could be taught to high school students as well as older grade school kids.
Patricia Reilly Giff also fills her canvas with some of the most memorable people you'll ever meet, and who you'll certainly want to stay in touch with long after finishing the book. In fact, I'm not near ready to put this book down--it promises to be my first Lunchtime Read Aloud, once school resumes in September.