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On Sale: December 30, 2008
Pages: 176 | ISBN: 978-0-307-54228-1
Published by : Yearling RH Childrens Books

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Hollis Woods has been in so many foster homes she can hardly remember them all. When Hollis is sent to Josie, she’ll do everything in her power to make sure they stay together.
Patricia Reilly Giff

About Patricia Reilly Giff

Patricia Reilly Giff - Pictures of Hollis Woods
“I want to see children curled up with books, finding an awareness of themselves as they discover other people’s thoughts. I want them to make the connection that books are people’s stories, that writing is talking on paper, and I want them to write their own stories. I’d like my books to provide that connection for them.”—Patricia Reilly Giff

Patricia Reilly Giff has recieved the Newbery Honor for Pictures of Hollis Woods and Lily’s Crossing, which is also a Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Book. Nory Ryan’s Song was named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and an ALA Notable Book.


What could be more wonderful than to write stories . . .

I spent my childhood reading in bed at night and early in the morning, and on long summer days under the tree in our yard. What could be more wonderful, I always thought, than to write stories that could make a reader fall in love with a character and laugh or cry over her adventures?

When did I start? Not soon enough! I was married and had three children. A snowy day and a husband who built a writing room from two skinny closets made me begin at last.

I agonized for weeks about what I would write, about that elusive protagonist that would make my readers want to spend hours of their lives following her imaginary life.

In my closet, I began to see Casey Valentine and Tracy Matson; Grace O’Malley came alive for me. And then the Kids of the Polk Street School danced into my head: Emily who reminded me of my daughter Alice, Beast who was very much like a boy I met in New Jersey, and Ms. Rooney—a teacher like myself who had good days and bad days, but who certainly loved her students. And, of course, there was the school amazingly like the one where I spent my days teaching.

I wanted to show readers that everyone has problems, that we’re not alone . . .

During the last several years I’ve been writing more serious books . . . books that remind me of my own childhood, my own feelings. I wrote Lily’ s Crossing because I remembered how terrified I was during the Second World War and All the Way Home because the specter of polio loomed over us each summer. I wanted to show readers that everyone has problems, that we’re not alone.

I wrote Nory Ryan’ s Song because my great-grandparents had lived through the Great Hunger of Ireland and I wanted to know more about it, more than the stories I had heard from family and from my distant cousins in Ireland. I learned as much as I could by going back to Ireland year after year; I wanted to put it all down on paper for my children and my grandchildren.

And then there was Pictures of Hollis Woods. I wrote that for my mother, and for me. Everything in the book has to do with both of us: the names of people my mother cared for—Beatrice, her best friend growing up; Henry, her cousin; Josie Cahill, her favorite aunt—and the house on the East Branch of the Delaware River that we both loved. Hollis was a foster child similar to many of the children I had worked with during my teaching years.

To tell children . . . there’ s always hope

My book Maggie’s Door is the story of Nory Ryan and Sean Mallon as they leave Ireland to take the long and terrible trip to America on one of the “coffin ships” during those famine years. I wrote it to remind readers of how hard immigrants, both past and present, struggle to make new lives for themselves. I wrote it to tell children that no matter how hard our lives are, there’s always a chance for a new start. There’s always hope.


“I always start each day by writing. That’s like breathing to me,” says Patricia Reilly Giff. In fact, this bestselling author admits: “I wanted to write from the first time I picked up a book and read. I thought it must be the most marvelous thing to make people dance across the pages.”

Reading and writing have always been an important part of Patricia Reilly Giff’s life. As a child, her favorite books included Little Women, The Secret Garden, the Black Stallion books, the Sue Barton books, and the Nancy Drew series. Giff loved reading so much that while growing up, her sister had to grab books out of her hands to get Giff to pay attention to her; later, Giff’s three children often found themselves doing the same thing. As a reading teacher for 20 years, the educational consultant for Dell Yearling and Young Yearling books, an adviser and instructor to aspiring writers, and the author of more than 60 books for children, Patricia Reilly Giff has spent her entire life surrounded by books.

After earning a B.A. degree from Marymount College, Giff took the advice of the school’s dean and decided to become a teacher. She admits, “I loved teaching. It was my world. I only left because I was overwhelmed with three careers—teaching, writing, and my family.”

During the 20 years of her teaching career, she earned an M.A. from St. John’s University, and a Professional Diploma in Reading and a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Hofstra University. Then one morning, Giff told her husband Jim, “I’m going to write a book. I’ve always wanted to write and now I shall.” Jim worked quickly to combine two adjacent closets in their apartment into one cramped workspace and, as Giff jokes, she “began [her] career in a closet.”

Giff explains, “I want the children to bubble up with laughter, or to cry over my books. I want to picture them under a cherry tree or at the library with my book in their hands. But more, I want to see them reading in the classroom. I want to see children in solitude at their desks, reading, absorbing, lost in a book.”

Giff tries to write books “that say ordinary people are special.” She says, “All of my books are based in some way on my personal experiences, or the experiences of members of my family, or the stories kids would tell me in school.” Therefore, when she runs out of ideas for her books, Giff says, “I take a walk and look around. Maybe I spend some time in a classroom and watch the kids for a while. Sometimes I lie on the living room floor and remember my days in second grade or third. If all that doesn’t work, I ask Ali, or Jim, or Bill”—Giff’s children, whose names often appear in her books.

When she’s not writing, Patricia Reilly Giff enjoys reading in the bathtub and going to the movies and eating popcorn. She and her husband reside in Weston, Connecticut. They have three children and five grandchildren. In 1990, Giff combined her two greatest loves—children’s books and her family—and, with her husband and her children, opened The Dinosaur’s Paw, a children’s bookstore named after one of her Kids of the Polk Street School novels. This store is part of Giff’ s quest to bring children and books together. She and her family are trying to “share our love of children’s books and writing and to help others explore the whole world of children’s books.”

Throughout the year, Giff visits schools and libraries around the country and speaks to her readers about her books, and about writing. When discussing her work, Giff claims, “I have no special talent, you know. I never took a writing course before I began to write.” She believes that “anyone who has problems, or worries, anyone who laughs and cries, anyone who feels can write. It’s only talking on paper . . . talking about the things that matter to us.”

Giff’s Newbery Honor–winning novel, Lily’s Crossing, is a vivid portrait of the home front during World War II. Fans of Giff’s Kids of the Polk Street School series who are ready to tackle a more challenging book will love this funny, sad, but reassuring story.

Her book, All the Way Home, tells the touching story of Brick and Mariel, two 11-year-old friends who know firsthand about adversity, and together embark on a journey that brings them personal peace.


“Details . . . are woven with great effect into a realistic story of ordinary people who must cope with events beyond their comprehension.”—Starred, The Horn Book Magazine

“Set during World War II, this tenderly written story tells of the war’s impact on two children, one an American and one a Hungarian refugee. Giff’s well-drawn, believable characters and vivid prose style make this an excellent choice.”—School Library Journal

“Newbery Honor winner Giff weaves wisps of history into this wrenching tale of an Irish family sundered by the Great Potato Famine. . . . Riveting.”—Starred, Kirkus Reviews

“Giff brings the landscape and the cultural particulars of the era vividly to life and creates in Nory a heroine to cheer for. A beautiful, heart-warming novel that makes a devastating event understandable.” —Starred, Booklist

The Kids of the Polk Street School #6

“Humor and trials are portrayed through realistic characters and situations and natural dialogue.”—School Library Journal

The Kids of the Polk Street School #10

“An affectionate picture of lower elementary students making their way through the ups and downs of classroom life.”—Booklist

A Polk Street Special #6

“An easy-to-read chapter book for fans of the series, as well as for those planning a visit.”—School Library Journal

“A solid book that accurately depicts many of the heartaches of the first days at a new school.”—Kirkus Reviews


WINNER Newbery Honor Book
WINNER 2003 ALA Best Books for Young Adults
WINNER 2003 ALA Notable Children's Book
WINNER 2005 Arkansas Charlie May Simon Master List
NOMINEE 2005 Illinois Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Award
WINNER 2004 Kentucky Bluegrass Master List
WINNER 2003 Maine Student Book Master List
WINNER 2004 Massachusetts Children's Book Master List
WINNER 2003 Newbery Honor Book
WINNER 2003 Christopher Award
Teachers Guide

Teacher's Guide


Hollis Woods’s search for a family is a perpetual journey, as she moves from one foster home to another until she meets the Regan family and two rather quirky elderly women who teach her a lot about love, friendship, and belonging.

Hollis Woods was an infant when she was abandoned and for 12 years she has been transferred from one foster home to another. To the social agency, she is a “mountain of trouble” because she skips school and runs away, even from the Regans, a family willing to give her a real home. When she is placed with Josie, an elderly artist who is becoming very forgetful, Hollis begins to feel needed and doesn’t ever want to leave this eccentric old woman who knows a lot about friendship and love. Fearful that the social agency will take her from Josie, Hollis plans a winter escape. This time she takes Josie with her and returns to Branches, the summer home that belongs to the Regans. All along, Hollis longs for her life with the Regans, and records every special moment with them in a gallery of pictures.


Patricia Reilly Giff is the author of many beloved books for children, including the Kids of the Polk Street School books and the Polka Dot Private Eye books. Her novels for middle-grade readers include The Gift of the Pirate Queen; Lily’s Crossing, a Newbery Honor Book and a Boston Globe—Horn Book Honor Book; Nory Ryan’s Song, an ALA Notable Book and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults; All the Way Home; and Pictures of Hollis Woods. Patricia Reilly Giff lives in Weston, Connecticut.



Ask students to discuss the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Then have them draw or take a picture of their family engaged in a special activity or tradition. Ask them to share the pictures in class. Encourage them to share why this particular moment in their family is so special.


Belonging–After a few days with Josie, Hollis realizes that she has never been needed before–or wanted. What is the difference between being needed and being wanted? How do both contribute to belonging? How do you know that Hollis really wants to belong to the Regan family? Ask the class to discuss whether Hollis’s attitude toward school is a result of her feeling that she does not belong.

Family–Describe the Regan family. Why is Hollis so confused about Steven’s relationship with his Dad? Why does she feel that the accident was her fault, and that she has “messed up the whole family”? (p. 136) At what point does Hollis realize that Steven wants to be her brother? Discuss why Hollis calls Steven’s father the “Old Man.” How has Hollis’s “W” picture changed by the end of the novel? How does the structure of the novel, especially the numerical sequence of pictures, reveal Hollis’s desire to be a part of the Regan family?

Friendship–Discuss why it is so difficult for Hollis to make friends. How is Steven Hollis’s first real friend? What do Josie and Beatrice teach Hollis about friendship? Hollis becomes extremely loyal to Josie. She is even willing to go to school so she can stay with Josie. Discuss how loyalty is an important element of friendship. How does Hollis remain a friend to Josie after she joins the Regan family?

Abandonment–Hollis has lived in many different foster homes since she was abandoned at birth. The woman in the stucco house calls her “a mountain of trouble,” and Hollis refers to herself as “tough.” What is the difference between trouble and tough? Discuss how Hollis’s abandonment and search for love has made her tough. How did Hollis abandon herself when she left the Regan home? Why is Hollis so determined not to abandon Josie?

Truth–Ask students to explain what Beatrice means when she tells Hollis, “You have to keep looking to find the truth.” (p. 45) How do Beatrice and Josie prepare Hollis for her moment of truth? Discuss the truth that Hollis discovers at the end of the novel.

Hope–There are times when Hollis’s life seems hopeless. How is hope revealed through her art? Beatrice says, “You’re going to be something, you and that language you speak on paper.” (p. 46) How do these words offer Hollis hope? How does Hollis’s last run give her the life that she has always hoped for?


Language Arts–Review the basic theme of The Wizard of Oz. Ask students to discuss how Hollis Woods’s journey might be compared to Dorothy Gale’s journey. Have them write a short paper that Hollis might write entitled “Dreams That You Dare to Dream Really Do Come True.”
Hollis Woods is searching for a home throughout the novel. Discuss Hollis’s idea of home. Send students to the library to search for poems that deal with the theme of home. Select a poem that best describes Hollis’s feelings of home at the end of the novel. Share the poems in class.

Social Studies–Hollis has to write a composition on Henry Hudson for school. Since Hollis speaks the language of art so well, perhaps her assignment should be to draw her composition. Ask students to research Henry Hudson, and draw one picture that sums up his role in American History. Encourage students to apply an appropriate caption.

Send students to the library to find out the history of foster care in the United States. Why was it started? Then invite someone from the social agency in your community who deals with foster home placement to speak to the class. How do families qualify to become foster homes? How many children in your community are served through foster care? How does the agency receive funding?

Science/Health–Josie is forgetful and is possibly suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or some type of dementia. Send students to the library to find out symptoms, treatment, and life expectancy of someone who suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia. Students may also want to use an almanac to find statistics regarding the number of people in the United States who are victim to these diseases.

Hollis Woods says that she will draw animal prints for Steven. Find out the kind of animals that might live in the mountains where Branches, the Regans’ summer home, is located in New York. Then have students use books in the library to find footprints for each of these animals. Draw and label them. Why would Hollis think this a perfect gift for Steven?

Art–At one point in the novel, Hollis Woods tries to draw jubilant. She uses yellows, oranges, and pinks. Ask students to list and discuss the many different emotions expressed in the book. Then have them select appropriate colors for each emotion.
Have students illustrate a wordless picture book called My Family that Hollis might make for Christina, her new little sister.

Careers–Beatrice had been an art teacher for 40 years, but had never seen anyone who could do what Hollis could do. Ask student to use books in the library or sites on the Internet to find out the many different career options in art for Hollis. Have them research the art schools in New York or in their own communities where Hollis could study.

Language Arts/Creative Drama–Ask students to read Journey by Patricia MacLachlan. Then engage the class in a discussion that compares Journey’s life with Hollis Woods’s life. How are the ways each uses art–Journey with photography and Hollis with painting–important to the growth of their character? Stage a conversation between Hollis Woods and Journey where they discuss the meaning of art and photography in their life.


The vocabulary in the novel isn’t difficult, but students should write down unfamiliar words and try to define the words using clues from the context of the story. Such words may include: jetty (p. 24), marquee (p. 34), perspective (p. 44), composition (p. 44), stanchions (p. 53), pewter (p. 118), deceptive (p. 121), and incorrigible (p. 124).


"Giff expertly portrays the intense, heartfelt emotions Hollis experiences and gives her talent and spunk."--Starred, Kirkus Reviews

"Giff again introduces a carefully delineated and sympathetic heroine in this quiet contemporary novel."--Publishers Weekly



Have a Heart for Kids
Information about the history of foster care.

Occupational Outlook Handbook
Find career information by occupation.


All the Way Home
Patricia Reilly Giff
Belonging • Family • Friendship
Abandonment • Truth • Hope
Grades 3—7 / 0-385-32209-7
Delacorte Press

Patricia MacLachlan
Family • Abandonment • Growing Up
Grades 4—8 / 0-440-40809-1
Dell Yearling

Lily’s Crossing
Patricia Reilly Giff
Belonging • Family • Friendship
Abandonment • Hope
Grades 4—7 / 0-440-41453-9
Dell Yearling

Monkey Island
Paula Fox
Belonging • Family • Friendship
Abandonment • Hope
Grades 5 up / 0-440-40770-2
Dell Yearling


Prepared by Pat Scales, Director of Library Services, the South Carolina Governor’s School for Arts and Humanities, Greenville, South Carolina.

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