Pictures of Hollis Woods

by Patricia Reilly Giff

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What is the central idea of Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff?

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The central idea of Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff is the unconditional love of a family. Hollis Woods is an orphan who has rarely experienced such unconditional love, and therefore, she doesn't really understand it. She also often thinks that she is not worthy of such love, so she resists it when she finally does find it. Let's look at these ideas in more detail.

Hollis has been shifted from foster home to foster home for her entire life. When she is eleven, she goes to live with Josie Cahill, a former art teacher, who recognizes Hollis' talent for drawing and comes to love the girl. Hollis loves her and will do anything to keep Josie safe (she has the beginnings of dementia) and stay with her.

There was one other family that Hollis came to love the Regans, Izzy and the Old Man and their son, Steven. But Hollis ran away from them even after they planned to adopt her because of an accident she thought was her fault. She believed she “messed up the family” and that they could never love her after that. Hollis, of course, is wrong, for she does not fully understand that love can indeed be unconditional.

When Hollis needs a place to hide with Josie so her social worker will not take her away, she goes to the Regan family's summer house in the mountains. Hollis cares for Josie, but she comes to realize that Josie is not really happy away from home. Hollis is getting ready to be “tough” again, take Josie home, and accept yet another foster family when Steven shows up. He has been watching out for Hollis and Josie the whole time they have been at the summer house, and now he convinces Hollis that the Regans still love her and want her to be their daughter. Hollis has never had a family, he says, so she just doesn't “know about families yet.” But the Regans will teach her, and Hollis finally agrees.

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