Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Pictures of Hollis Woods"

FABULOUS!  There's my summary/critique of the book.  Patricia Reilly Giff really crafts a masterpiece in Pictures of Hollis Woods.  No wonder it was a 2003 Newbery Honor Book.

I suppose the previous paragraph probably isn't enough to sell you on the book, unless you trust my literary opinion with the utmost regard.  So here's the more "informational" summary/critique.  Hollis Woods is a girl who's shipped from one foster house to the next (she's a runner).  She loves to draw, and the story bounces back and forth between previous houses and memories she's stored through illustrations, and her current foster home.  The book follows your typical story structure in the sense that it ends leaving you feeling complete (as any good book will!).  As I tell my students, it's one of those where you get to the ending and go, "Ahhhh."  Giff paints a picture of Hollis Woods (pun intended) that makes you want to reach for your own colored pencils to immortalize your life.  She develops the plot and characters with subtle word choice that nothing feels forced.

I'd never heard of the book until a few weeks ago, and now it seems that every middle grade girl I talk to loves the book.  And, I won't lie, there are a handful of adults who enjoy curling up on the couch with a good middle grade novel that have also recommended Pictures of Hollis Woods.  As for me, it's up there on my "Favorite Middle Grade Books" list, joining Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli and Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Move Over "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"

My apologies for being vacant for so long.  I've been reading, but not in the mood to type - perhaps because that would mean putting down my book...ahh, the Catch 22!

Today's post is thanks to Time Magazine, but I'm a bit behind in reading them, so it's from the January 10, 2011 copy.  Page 50-54, home of one of the most innovative and inspiring things I've read.  A program in St. Louis is completely changing the way foster care is run.  Instead of simply placing children with absolutely anyone who is willing to take them in, this program ("Extreme Recruitment") has hired detectives to find any and all family members of children in the system.  Then they go door-to-door to those relatives until they find someone willing to take in the child.  A minimum of 40 relatives for each child, and a 70% success rate.  To top it off, the children are moved out of foster care much faster than through the traditional system, and significantly more likely to be adopted.  The program has found that it's all about making a connection (the "Monkey Sphere" for those of you who are familiar with the concept).

It's possible that this article is part of what has me so into Pictures of Hollis Woods -- it's all about wanting to belong.