Pictures of Hollis Woods

March 29, 2009
More by this author
'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 are standing in front of their house, H. I don't see one W word here.'

I opened my moth to say: How about W for Wish, or W for Want, or W for 'Wouldn't it be lovely,' like the song the music teacher had taught us?'
Pictures tell a thousand words, mere reflections of the past, reflections of life, and reflections of the persistence of memory. Memories and pictures carve the trunk of life, and remain forever. One picture can change our thoughts and mind. This novel by Patricia Reilly Giff truly reflects the persistence of memory. 'Love, loyalty, and courage attribute character to the young and unfortunate narrator; Hollis Woods. - 'Pictures of Holliswoods.' describes the perpetual quest of finding a family, acceptance, and sheer happiness.

Hollis' quest begins with a long drive to Long Island, with the 'dignified' Mustard Lady, the adoption councilor. Hollis, an orphan with not much of her own, including her name, was found on the midst of a street, with only one tag, 'Call Me Hollis Woods' a name of a place quite far away in her retrospect. Usually a ride with the woman crowned in the dark yellow mustard stain on her silky, but cheap sweat pants, is quite the odd and nightmare for Hollis. It usually ends in her disappointment or move from one family' to another. But this time, the outcome was a colorful picture painted with possibilities.

Maybe it wasn't a full family with a father, and maybe some siblings, but maybe just a good friend. Painted inside her next house was a scrawny, older female, with fading gray hair and an optimistic smile, was a retired art teacher; Josie. The time she spent with Josie would be a life changing experience, but such experience would soon be forgotten by Josie, as she jousts Alzheimer's. Here, Hollis shares her gift of art with Josie as Josie does to Hollis. There, Josie tells her to express herself with the use of colors. But troubles just begin there as Josie begins to forget things and Hollis remembers, the time with the Regan's. And Hollis must be removed from Josie's care, as Josie forgot to take her to school and such'. And that's when it was time for an adventure.

The Regan's had been quite a nice family, Old Man father, Izzy, a loving, candy baker, and Stephen, their beloved son. Hollis was quite a fit in their family, like craft glue sticking construction paper to glitter-Hollis. Maybe it was the environment, Old Man's woods, a serene cool place, fenced with natural boundaries, large evergreens, spruce, oaks, covered in luscious greens, and the fresh ever delighting smell of fresh dirt. It was all family. Could it have been the art supplies Old Man dedicated to Hollis, to draw out her mind? Or it could have been the close relationship with Stephen, the spectacled child with the sense of adventure in him, and his 'ole' pick-up-truck. It was all summertime-long gone, Hollis wishing it could have lasted longer. But, maybe there was something; as we know, some fairytales don't always have the happiest of endings.

'I think Mrs. Cahill,-Josie-, that we need to think of a better place for Hollis,' remarked the Mustard Lady, the devil wearing mustard and coffee. (Page 66).Hollis' attachment to the Regan's began to escalate. Hollis must go to a new family, one with a mother, a father, a three year old toddler, and a dog. 'W', it was not what Hollis 'wanted'. Hollis wanted to be with Josie and or the Regan's. But something from her past wished for her not to go back, but curiosity and truly want to belong. So from there it went forth, Josie and Hollis escaped in Josie's Silver bullet, an old silver Buick for Christmas Break to camp out in the Regan's summer get away. To get away from the sour taste of mustard and the smell of strong coffee, the Mustard Woman, the lady who left a sour taste in her life and played a strong influence.

A painting of sour lemons was all that was present in the book, yet Patricia Riley Giff turned into sweet Lemon Tart. The book was a fantastic piece of literature which stated the complicated life of orphaned children and how each individual's life is affected by people who care. It has conveyed how life has obstacles, but avoiding these obstacles makes life sweet. It shows how in life we all win, how Hollis gets what she wants with some small sacrifices. The author sent vibe and lessons on life early on. 'Call her Hollis Woods.' No family or name of her own. When we complain about things we don't have, they are not nearly as important as things such as family and a home to call your own. We are lucky to be blessed with a family and a place of our own. Even such knowledge of knowing that your family will not be replaced in a year or so is just as special, it is a latent form of happiness we all never express.

'Pictures of Hollis Woods' is quite similar to books of such topic. 'Bud Not Buddy', a book about a young boy, about a young boy about Hollis' age goes on a dangerous quest to find his father when his mother dies. Patricia Riley Giff's story similarly evolves around 'So-b It', a tale of a teenager on an arduous and lengthy cross country trip to find out exactly who her mother is. 'Picture of Hollis Woods' seems like a book with creative license of 'So-b it', with the added twist of abandonment and the feeling of never fitting in pretty much anything since birth. .

This book reminds me strongly of seeing the slumps in many parts of the world. It disappoints me on many levels in which parts of the world struggle to make ends meet and have never experienced life as I have. Personally, having a family, a house, food on the table, a car to ride in, and clothing were not that big of a deal. Especially in this economy where millions of Americans struggle to make ends meet and keep their homes from being taken away by foreclosure. Like the time after a live Yankee's game, on rout back home on Yankee blvd, a man is selling Yankee Hats and how he ran from car to car, in immense traffic selling hats to people who wanted them. Even while the traffic was running, he still ran through the dangerous circumstances to feed his family. Or the time in India when riding in a car, I see small children with shards of clothing as their attire looking at us gloomily at our luxurious comfort, and their parents no where to be seen. Maybe their parents had abandoned them as Hollis' parents did.It shows the struggles in life, and maybe an outer-being is sending us a message by these people's lives: Life is beautiful and cherish every moment of it, and structure your life around lessons learned from others. Maybe just maybe'..

Hollis Wood's picture perfect life did not come through as easily as our lives might have been. Maybe Hollis pictures were black and white and then became colorful. Through reading this book, my vantage has changed on life, to change my W-wants, and N-needs. Therefore, 'Pictures of Hollis Woods' is a picture perfect book.

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