We discussed the theme of Belonging already, so let's discuss a few more themes: Family, Friendship, Abandonment, Truth, and Hope.
13. Family ~ Describe the Regan family. Why is Hollis so confused about Steven’s relationship with his Dad? Why does she feel that the accident was her fault, and that she has "messed up the whole family" (p. 136)? At what point does Hollis realize that Steven wants to be her brother? Discuss why Hollis calls Steven’s father the "Old Man." How has Hollis’s "W" picture changed by the end of the novel? How does the structure of the novel, especially the numerical sequence of pictures, reveal Hollis’s desire to be a part of the Regan family?
14. Friendship ~ Why it is so difficult for Hollis to make friends? How is Steven Hollis’s first real friend? What do Josie and Beatrice teach Hollis about friendship? Hollis becomes extremely loyal to Josie. She is even willing to go to school so she can stay with Josie. How is loyalty an important element of friendship? How does Hollis remain a friend to Josie after she joins the Regan family?
15. Abandonment ~ Hollis has lived in many different foster homes since she was abandoned at birth. The woman in the stucco house calls her "a mountain of trouble," and Hollis refers to herself as "tough." What is the difference between trouble and tough? How has Hollis’s abandonment and search for love made her tough? How did Hollis abandon herself when she left the Regan home? Why is Hollis so determined not to abandon Josie?
16. Truth ~ What does Beatrice mean when she tells Hollis, "You have to keep looking to find the truth" (p. 45)? How do Beatrice and Josie prepare Hollis for her moment of truth? What was the truth that Hollis discovered at the end of the novel?
17. Hope ~ There are times when Hollis’s life seems hopeless. How is hope revealed through her art? Beatrice says, "You’re going to be something, you and that language you speak on paper" (p. 46). How do these words offer Hollis hope? How does Hollis’s last run give her the life that she has always hoped for?
18. Here's a question especially for those outside the United States, though people in the U.S. are certainly welcome to speak up and tell us your thoughts. This novel is about foster care in the United States; what can you tell us about foster care in your country? Why was it started? How do families qualify to become foster homes? How many children in your community are served through foster care? How does the agency receive funding?
19. What sort of pictures do you think Hollis might draw as a wordless picture book for Christina, her new little sister? Would Hollis likely call the book "My Family" or "Our Family"?