Holling and Heather Hoodhood are brother and sister to each other, and Mr. Hoodhood is their father. Heather is the older sister to Holling, who is in seventh grade. I wish that I could say that the family dynamic in the story is great and that everybody loves each other, but that is not the case. Mr. Hoodhood is a terrible father figure. He barely shows any interest in his kids. The interest that he does show is almost always negative. He is basically incapable of saying a kind word to Heather, and he generally speaks to Holling about school to make sure that Holling is being good in Mrs. Baker's class so that he can hopefully win the architecture contract that her family is giving to one of two firms.
In Mr. Hoodhood's defense, Heather is a rebellious daughter in many ways. The picture that Holling presents paints Heather as a stereotypical hippie, a flower child. She has little to say to Holling that could be considered loving or supporting; however, that doesn't stop Holling from rescuing her on two different occasions. His devotion to her eventually breaks up her icy exterior, and readers are left with the impression that they will support each other through thick and thin for the rest of their lives.
Holling is a great character. He's hard-working and determined, but he's not perfect. He's afraid of bullies just like any other seventh grader, and he just can't figure out how the entire girl/girlfriend thing works. He is a steady and dependable person, and I think that shines through more than any other characteristic. It's why he saves Heather those two times. It's why his two best friends and Meryl Lee like him so much, and it is why he and Mrs. Baker end up being so supportive of each other. Holling absolutely could have gone the apathetic route with Mrs. Baker's Shakespeare thing, but Holling essentially doesn't know how to do anything less than his best. He eventually learns to love both Shakespeare and his teacher all while becoming a better friend and brother to the people that are closest to him.