The Intergenerational Kindred Spirits in Pictures of Hollis Woods
This Week on The NewberyTart Podcast
Each week on NewberyTart, Jennie and Marcy, two book-loving mamas (and a librarian and a bookseller, respectively), read and drink their way through the entire catalogue of Newbery books, and interview authors and illustrators along the way.
On this episode, Jennie and Marcy talk about the 2003 Newbery Honor Book Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff.
From the episode:
Jennie: I want to talk a minute about the way that art is written about in this book. First of all, Josie makes these people out of driftwood, right? Of course, that made me think of our interview with Ashley Bryan and him talking about making his personages from stuff that he finds on the beach. And I just thought this was a delightful way of expanding that into someone else’s perspective, of making people, making puppets, making figures out of found objects.
Marcy: It’s nice to me, too, to see that Hollis has this complete artistic vocation already at the age of 12. She makes drawings out of everything. Everything she sees, she compares to art and how she would draw it, but in a completely unpretentious way. I feel like a lot of times when you see older characters making folk art in books, the kids are—at least at first—very judgmental and dismissive. So it’s really nice to see a kid character appreciating the art of an older person.
Jennie: And understanding it’s special, and not just writing her off as wacky.
Marcy: Yes. Like, oh, that crazy old lady, or I guess she does that but it’s harmless. She takes the time to really appreciate what this woman is doing, which is nice. And so by the time Josie starts making a wooden figure of Hollis, Hollis knows how important that is and feels extremely honored. And it makes her feel loved, which is beautiful.
Marcy: And it’s very reflective of what she does, right? Because all the drawings she does that are the little vignettes in the book are reflections mostly of this family that she learned to love—drawings of them and of their home and moments that they had together. And it becomes clear through that how much she loves them. So to have that turned around and Josie, who she finds a home with, at least temporarily, the fact that she’s making art of Hollis is proof to Hollis, whether she says it or not, that she is loved. I guess what I’m saying is it’s nice to find your own values reflected back to you.
Jennie: Well, and that reminds me of—when I was a kid, I was always really obsessed with adults that were weird.
Marcy: How is that different from now?
Jennie: Well, for me, it was a matter of like, oh, they survived being my age. They got through this stuff. They got through being told you were odd or that you were weird and that you maybe were too intense or you thought weird things, did weird things. Any time I would see an adult or talk to an adult that did something interesting for a living or was an artist or just was really comfortable and a real person around kids, it always gave me a big boost because I was like, oh, they survived. And they actually are doing good.
Patricia Reilly Giff’s most recent Delacorte book is All the Way Home. She is also the author of Lily’s Crossing, a Newbery Honor Book and Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book.