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The Great Gilly Hopkins

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Watch out world!
The Great Gilly Hopkins is looking for a home. She's a foster kid who's been angry, lonely, and hurting for so long that's she's always ready for a fight. Be on the lookout for her best barracuda smile, the one she saves for well-meaning social workers. Watch out for her most fearful look, a cross between Dracula and Godzilla, used especially to scare shy foster brothers. Don't be fooled by her "Who me?" expression, guaranteed to trick foster parents, teachers, and anyone who gets in her way.

It's Gilly Hopkins vs. the world! And so far, Gilly seems to be winning. But what she doesn't realize is that every time she wins, she really loses, until she discovers a love as formidable as any enemy she's ever known.

148 pages, Hardcover

First published March 29, 1978

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About the author

Katherine Paterson

142 books1,844 followers
From author's website:

People are always asking me questions I don't have answers for. One is, "When did you first know that you wanted to become a writer?" The fact is that I never wanted to be a writer, at least not when I was a child, or even a young woman. Today I want very much to be a writer. But when I was ten, I wanted to be either a movie star or a missionary. When I was twenty, I wanted to get married and have lots of children.

Another question I can't answer is, "When did you begin writing?" I can't remember. I know I began reading when I was four or five, because I couldn't stand not being able to. I must have tried writing soon afterward. Fortunately, very few samples of my early writing survived the eighteen moves I made before I was eighteen years old. I say fortunately, because the samples that did manage to survive are terrible, with the single exception of a rather nice letter I wrote to my father when I was seven. We were living in Shanghai, and my father was working in our old home territory, which at the time was across various battle lines. I missed him very much, and in telling him so, I managed a piece of writing I am not ashamed of to this day.

A lot has happened to me since I wrote that letter. The following year, we had to refugee a second time because war between Japan and the United States seemed inevitable. During World War II, we lived in Virginia and North Carolina, and when our family's return to China was indefinitely postponed, we moved to various towns in North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia, before my parents settled in Winchester, Virginia.

By that time, I was ready to begin college. I spent four years at King College in Bristol, Tennessee, doing what I loved best-reading English and American literature-and avoiding math whenever possible.

My dream of becoming a movie star never came true, but I did a lot of acting all through school, and the first writing for which I got any applause consisted of plays I wrote for my sixth-grade friends to act out.

On the way to becoming a missionary, I spent a year teaching in a rural school in northern Virginia, where almost all my children were like Jesse Aarons. I'll never forget that wonderful class. A teacher I once met at a meeting in Virginia told me that when she read Bridge to Terabithia to her class, one of the girls told her that her mother had been in that Lovettsville sixth grade. I am very happy that those children, now grown up with children of their own, know about the book. I hope they can tell by reading it how much they meant to me.

After Lovettsville, I spent two years in graduate school in Richmond, Virginia, studying Bible and Christian education; then I went to Japan. My childhood dream was, of course, to be a missionary to China and eat Chinese food three times a day. But China was closed to Americans in 1957, and a Japanese friend urged me to go to Japan instead. I remembered the Japanese as the enemy. They were the ones who dropped the bombs and then occupied the towns where I had lived as a child. I was afraid of the Japanese, and so I hated them. But my friend persuaded me to put aside those childish feelings and give myself a chance to view the Japanese in a new way.

If you've read my early books, you must know that I came to love Japan and feel very much at home there. I went to language school, and lived and worked in that country for four years. I had every intention of spending the rest of my life among the Japanese. But when I returned to the States for a year of study in New York, I met a young Presbyterian pastor who changed the direction of my life once again. We were married in 1962.

I suppose my life as a writer really began in 1964. The Presbyterian church asked me to write some curriculum materials for fifth- and sixth-graders. Since the church had given me a scholarship to study and I had married instead of going back to work in Japan, I felt I owed them something for their m

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,451 reviews
Profile Image for K8.
237 reviews24 followers
May 16, 2015
What I really like: Paterson never takes the easy way out and it doesn't have a traditional 'happy ending.' There are things to be happy about in the end - Gilly has grown up and she learns to accept some emotional attachments. And she is smart.

I can see where some stuffy readers wouldn't like Gilly's behavior. She's a foul-mouthed brat at the beginning of the book. She's damaged; she's been passed around several foster homes and, after an early disappointment, tries to sabotage each placement that follows. She's a racist. Well, she definitely is at the beginning of the book. She learns to accept Mr. Randolph, but we never learn if she has had some sort of "conversion." Which is probably a good thing - life's a whole lot more complicated than a now-I-see-the-light story.

As I said, there isn't a traditional happy ending, but readers get the feeling that Gilly will be ok. And she seems to have learned a sense of grace - at least, in public. Her inner thoughts still mirror the girl we meet at the start of the story. But, she seems to learn how to control the impulse to act, having learned that acting in these ways doesn't always bring the desired consequences.

I'm not sure how I would have read this as a kid, but I'm happy I've read such a wonderfully complicated story. (Full Disclosure: Paterson's Bridge to Terebithia was the first book to ever leave me in tears.)
Profile Image for Calista.
3,792 reviews31.2k followers
October 1, 2017
This is a book with honesty and heart. Gilly is no angel - she's tough. She wants her mom. Gilly is in the foster care system and she feels you have to be tough to survive life; you can't need anyone's help. She is smart and capable and she knows it and she also knows how to use that as a weapon.

This book was powerful and it moved me. I was brought into a way of life not my own. I think this is a fantastic book. Well written, strong characters and a subject matter would could all do with knowing more about.

This is the best line from the book:

"But I always thougth that when my mother cam..."
"My sweet baby, ain't no one ever told you yet? I reckon I thought you had that all figured out."
"That all that stuff about happy endings is lies. The only ending in this world is death. Now that might or might not be happy, but either way you ain't ready to die, are you?"

That is powerful writing right there. All laid out for us in plain language, boom. I say read this book, it will seep into you and leave something inside you.
Profile Image for Rain Misoa.
506 reviews70 followers
May 13, 2011
The pain! Oh, the pain! I cannot begin to tell you how much this book hurts me. I just... can't even begin to understand why such a book was written in the first place. It's so depressing... and not in a good way! The message in the book is just so horrible to be given to children that I don't think any child should read this! This can literally break a child's spirit! That's how bad the message of this book is! I didn't enjoy this book at all!

Paterson's books, and I do mean all of them, are so depressing that I don't want to pick up another one ever again! They all have the same meaning of how life isn't fair, we have to deal with our problems, there's no such thing as happy endings, etc. I hate these books for being so pessimistic! Why must we think of life as "it sucks, deal with it"? It makes no sense to me. I don't like that message and I don't agree with it! The only good thing I can say about this book is the fact that Paterson's writing improved greatly! There are no longer chunks of the book that are missing. It's all there and you don't have to re-read anything. Thank God because I wouldn't want to read any parts of this book again!

I can appreciate wanting to write a story about foster care children and how it's rough on them but that doesn't mean you have to make it seem completely hopeless for them! Gilly, the main character, was a foster child that was taken from home to home and it effected her in such a way that she turned into a bratty girl who sweared, got into fights, was a racist, and a thief! Not to mention a big manipulator. These things don't bother me as much because in the novel, you see her grow into a better person. However, her ending was just horrible. I know not everything is suppose to have a happy ending but what kind of ending was that!? The message written there was nothing but pure hopelessness! How horrible it must be for children to read this and get that sense out of life!

I would have to say that I did enjoy some of the other characters. Trotter was Gilly's foster mother and she was so sweet and caring. She looked out for both Gilly and William Ernest. The only thing I hate about her was the fact Paterson used her to convey her "message." William Ernest was such a cute little boy! Very intelligent and I loved how he said "Pow!" all the time! Mr. Randolph: Adorable! Simply adorable! I could read to him all day! Miss Harris, her teacher, was fierce! Don't mess with her or she'll tear you a new one! XD The one character that I hated, other than Gilly at the beginning, was her mother, Courtney. It's because of her that Gilly turned out so messed up. She never cared for the child and that's why Gilly's life was torn in two. I feel sorry for the girl...

I suppose the book could be enjoyed by some... well, very few. It's just a horrible book, in all honesty. I don't like it. I'm not sure why things must be looked upon in such a negative light. I understand not everything is all sugar and rainbows... but there should have been another meaning in the book other than, "You ruined your life and there's nothing else you can do about it." I could have handle the sad ending a bit better if there was some positivity to it. But no. None whatsoever. I wanted to give this book a two star rating because I did enjoy some of the characters but I just cannot overlook the ending. Perhaps people who are more stone-stomach than I can handle this book. If not, then skip it. You are not missing out on much.
Profile Image for Deacon Tom F.
1,649 reviews124 followers
October 24, 2021
Very Clever

"The Great Gilly Hopkins" was very well written and therefore I enjoyed it immensely.

As a seeming permanant member of the Foster care system Gilly moves quite frequently. She is looking to live with her birth family. Oh the incidents she causes!

An excellent ending for sure.

I highly recommend.

Profile Image for Jennifer.
6 reviews8 followers
February 18, 2009
Good middle grade novel--its character driven, so for reluctant readers, you might have a struggle getting them into it. Boys may not find the female protagonist appealing (though she's a pretty tough & streetwise character for the time period it was written in.) We did it books on tape. My fourth grader loved it (the one that reads a Harry Potter novel in 6 hours); my six grader couldn't stand it (she's a tough one to get to read--it takes her three weeks to get through a Harry Potter novel and would rather get the movie or the book on tape.)

The main character swears a lot, and calls the older black neighbor the "n" word--probably the main reason the book is not a school curriculum mainstay--though it is of that high caliber. As an adult, I can see where Paterson chose realism & didn't water the character down. I know many kids appreciate that too. And while the main character clearly starts out as a bigot, she's changed in a real and genuine way by the end of the story.

It has some wonderful truths of life--that its not always a piece of cake to get by--but you make the best of what you can. Gilly, the main character is entering her third foster home when we meet her. She finally finds a permanent home, though it was hardly what she expected.
Profile Image for Josiah.
3,201 reviews142 followers
July 20, 2021
Katherine Paterson, a year after releasing the classic Bridge to Terabithia, once again blows my mind.

The Great Gilly Hopkins is full of stark emotion that Gilly's sharp mind brings into unique focus.

I don't know if I have ever read anything more heartening than the interactions between Gilly and William Earnest, though each of Gilly's relationships is special in its own way.

This book made me laugh out loud and brought me to tears; it echoed within my heart and soul and grounded me with its uncompromising reality.

1979 was a loaded Newbery year featuring Robin McKinley's Beauty and Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game, but my Newbery Medal for that year would have gone to The Great Gilly Hopkins. It is inspiring and wonderful like nothing else.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,027 followers
July 25, 2021
I read this middle grade book featuring a protagonist who is in foster care from 1978 (and by the author of Bridge to Terabithia) but I'm afraid it really hasn't aged well. Gilly is racist, fatphobic, and uses the "r" word to refer to her foster brother. The racism includes writing a poem for her Black female teacher that implies the "n" word - I was all 😬

The one thing that is probably accurate is that adults in the lives of kids who move from place to place definitely need someone on their side.
Profile Image for Naksed.
2,969 reviews103 followers
January 12, 2020
Sad, realistic tale of an eleven year-old girl flung from one foster home to another, with predictable results on her psyche. The author doesn’t sugar-coat things or give in to sentimentality (except for the little bits that incorporate Wordsworth’s poem “Ode to Immortality”). The anger of the abandoned, neglected girl is the prevalent tone, with dialogue and monologues peppered with words like “hell”, “goddamn” and “retard” at staccato speed. There is also racism (Gilly is loathe to touch the hand of an African-American neighbour, and she makes a racist “joke” card for her teacher). The transformation and healing that occur when her newest foster mother gives her true unconditional acceptance is believable and not at all trite. I also liked that the ending was bittersweet. It was a fitting end to the novel. Get your hankies ready and be prepared to tackle real-life issues if you read this with your child. I would not recommend this for someone younger than ten, in general.
Profile Image for Rebecca Maye Holiday.
Author 29 books126 followers
January 15, 2022
This book is gritty, blunt, honest and real, sometimes depressing, but an accurate portrayal of a child who's been passed around so many times that she's tired of playing by the rules. Gilly doesn't need anybody's help. She's a survivor, and her absentee mother is surely coming back for her someday... so, she lies and bullies and swears and insults her way through the world, oblivious to who she hurts, but then the kindness of the people who step into her life make her realize that she's worth more than that.

The Great Gilly Hopkins, like many of Katherine Paterson's books, features bittersweet revelations and harsh life lessons. It's also been censored in the past due to Gilly's profanity and the use of a racial slur, but in context, Gilly does come to learn that none of that behaviour is acceptable after giving a racist greeting card to her teacher, who doesn't put up with that sort of nonsense. In any case, the book has such wonderful characters that I had trouble finding any fault with it. Trotter was a lovable foster mother, and while I'm not a Christian myself, it's clear that Trotter's faith in God is not an indoctrination of her foster children so much as something to give them hope in an otherwise bleak world they find themselves in. William Ernest, Gilly's foster brother, is a little boy who's clearly faced abuse in the past from his biological family, while Gilly's biological mother, Courtney, turns out to not be the perfect fairy godmother Gilly insists will rescue her, in fact, quite the opposite. Courtney is a good reminder that not everybody should have children just because they can, but regardless, Gilly was born, Gilly exists, and Gilly has to play pretend or face the harsh reality that she wasn't wanted.

In this reality comes a silver lining, which is that a family doesn't have to be biological to be real. It can be biological, adoptive, some mix of strangers coming together into your life to be there for you, or even a community at large, as Gilly comes to learn from people like Mr. Randolph and Miss Harris. Some people say that The Great Gilly Hopkins is just too bleak and hopeless to be enjoyable, but the hope in the story comes from reading between the lines. The lesson Gilly learns, which is simply that she doesn't have to be what her mother did to her, is a strong and important one. Gilly overcomes learned prejudices ingrained in her mentality from childhood, she makes new friends, she establishes a life for herself, and she even learns to love again. Paterson's lack of saccharine promises and sappy scenes can make the book at times depressing, but also more realistic, without going too far and getting graphic with things like abuse, death or violence. It was also recently adapted into a movie with Kathy Bates in the role of Trotter, so the story still resonates with a younger audience generations after its original release.
Profile Image for Vivi.
399 reviews32 followers
October 7, 2019
4 stars!

11 year-old Galadriel Hopkins (AKA Gilly) is a pretty Mean girl.

Gilly is Arrogant, Racist, Self-centered, Closed off to others and pretty Tough. But, she's also very Bright.

The book stars with Gilly moving onto her 3rd foster home (in the last 3 years)... Onto the home of old, fat Maime Trotter and small, shy, not seemingly very smart, 7-year-old William Ernest.

Gilly knows how to roll, how to deal with new foster homes and schools - she's done it for ages! (since she was 3) - she knows how to keep holding until her next move...or until her mother comes for her.

What Gilly doesn't know, though?

...is the effect that Trotter, William Ernest and the black next-door-neighbor Mr. Randolph will have on her... And how much she'll held them dear, in the years to come.

What will happen?

Can a Mean girl change her ways?

Will Gilly ever see her mother again?

Or will Gilly remain a "foster child" forever?

Read the book to find out ;)


I enjoyed this book...

Truthfully, I didn't like Gilly very much on the beginning of the book. She is Such a Mean girl!

We really get inside Gilly's mind on most parts of the book; and Gilly's thoughts about people and the way she treats people are pretty horrible. There's pure racism (I kid you not) and I hated how she treated Agnes (the closest thing she had to a friend).

BUT, as the book progresses, Gilly starts changing... because she slowly starts caring and her tough facade starts crumbling.

I loved seeing her change. And I absolutely loved the trio that made that possible.

Also, it's nearly impossible to not love William Ernest... And Trotter ☺

I felt Lots with this book! I even cried!

The ending was not what I wanted, but I understand why it happened; and it was realistic... And happy, even.

(But, In a perfect, rosy, full-of-rainbows-and-sunshine world - that we know does not exist - you know what I wanted, right?!)

Overall, this is a pretty good book that shows the transformation of a young girl, who realises that though life isn't always as we would like it to be; there's always someone who cares and is worth doing our best for.
Profile Image for Hillary.
48 reviews3 followers
July 24, 2009
I liked this book for 3 reasons. 1. Paterson beautifully illustrates raw anger with remarkable accuracy. 2. It reminds you of the worth of a soul, rich or poor, black or white skinny or large almost everyone has a significant contribution to make to people. And 3. Just when you thought that your role as a mother was limited or reduced to cooking and cleaning, this book reminds you just how much kids need mothers and how much they love and value them. This book is juvenile fiction and you should be able to finish it in a day, but when I am in-between books and I need a distraction I turn to Newberry winners in the Young adult and juvenile fiction category. I have yet to be disappointed. My favorite quote from this book is: "Nothing to make you happy like doing good on a tough job, now is there?"
Profile Image for Jerry.
4,617 reviews54 followers
March 26, 2017
Terrible. Excessive profanity, a misbehaving main character, religion bashing, and an ending that was way too pat.
Profile Image for Tory C..
Author 5 books7 followers
July 23, 2021
The Great Gilly Hopkins: "Could You Just Leave Her?"

spoiler alert

Everyone knows a good princess fairytale ends with the words, “And they lived happily ever after.” Although Gilly isn’t a princess, her story in The Great Gilly Hopkins almost ends in the princess fairytale manner. “Almost” is the key word here. The book did come to a happily ever after ending, but then Paterson kept writing for six more frustrating chapters. Why did Paterson do it? Gilly, the meanest, rudest, bitterest eleven-year-old you may have ever read about, has finally learned how to love and trust again. It’s a beautiful chapter where the forsaken Gilly finally gives in to the gentle but overwhelming love of her foster mother, Maime Trotter. Gilly has finally found a family and loves it fiercely. It appears that Gilly’s problems are over. At this point Gilly can “live happily ever after.” But Paterson doesn’t believe in fairytale endings. Just when things are going so well Gilly appears to be ripped from her newfound happiness to face a harsh reality. Paterson knew what she was doing. In the harshness lies a gift of truth which in turn encompasses a pure love and happiness that can actually exist in reality, and not just in childish fairytales.

As far as fairytale endings go, Paterson knows how to set one up. After Gilly has been abandoned at three years old by her birth mother and then two years later by her first foster mother, she wraps herself in anger and bitterness. She has learned to expect no kindness from those whom she is told are “nice” and no loyalty from those who are paid to take care of her. She trusts no one. As a coping mechanism she fixates upon the one who abandoned her first, Courtney, her birth mother. She explains, “I can’t go soft—not as long as I’m nobody’s real kid—not while I’m just something to play musical chairs with . . .” In Gilly’s warped, young mind Courtney is the only person she can trust to not love her and leave her. It must be pointed out that Gilly’s mother has only written her one perfunctory note in eleven years—there have been no visits, no calls, no letters, and no explanations. Still, compared to “musical chairs” in the foster system, Gilly sees her mother, Courtney, as her only hope for lasting love.

This is where Maime Trotter enters the picture. Like Gilly’s previous foster mothers Trotter is “accused” of being nice. Unlike Gilly’s previous foster parents, Gilly’s tried and tested technique of slash and burn via words and deeds doesn’t make Trotter hate her. Trotter’s love and patience for Gilly is relentless. After betraying Trotter’s growing trust by stealing all her money and running away, Gilly is brought back to Trotter’s to overhear her say, “No! I ain’t never giving her up. Never!” to the caseworker who is insisting Gilly go to a more secure home. When Gilly heard Trotter go on to say, “I like to die when I found her gone,” the protective ice around Gilly’s heart melts and “Gilly’s whole body was engulfed in a great aching.” It’s the end of the angry, mean, racist Gilly. She accepts Trotter, William Earnest, and black Mr. Randolph as family. It’s beautiful. It’s happy. It’s a fairytale ending.

To end the book here is the equivalent of “And they lived happily ever after.” Is there anything wrong with a “happily ever after” ending? After all, parents happily read fairy tales to their kids, and adults eagerly watch Hallmark Movies. It seems human beings are hungry for happy endings. Why is this? Perhaps it’s because we don’t feel we get enough of these in real life. We seek solace in the illusion rather than strength in reality. It’s clear Paterson doesn’t believe in writing illusions. She could have ended her book with the crowd-pleasing fairytale ending, but instead she carried on to an ending that many of my students outright hate or are at least find highly disappointing. Why would she do this? Is Paterson like Gilly, angry and mean? I believe it is quite the opposite. Paterson finds that reality is better, more fulfilling, than the illusion.

Just when Gilly is getting settled into her new life with Trotter, Gilly’s grandmother shows up. At first thought most of us wouldn’t think that a grandmother showing up to be a bad thing. In this story it’s a major complication. Gilly had never considered she had a grandmother, and her grandmother (Nonnie) had only learned of Gilly’s existence the day before. Courtney never told Nonnie of Gilly’s birth. In an attempt to get her mother to come get her, Gilly had written a letter misrepresenting life at Trotter’s house. Courtney, who hasn’t communicated with her mother in thirteen years, asks Nonnie to take Gilly in. Nonnie arrives unannounced to check on Gilly. It happens to be an awfully bad time when everyone except Gilly is sick. It’s a humorous scene where Trotter’s house temporarily looks a little like an insane asylum. Based on the information in Gilly’s letter, and on what she sees, Nonnie, automatically loving a granddaughter as most grandmothers would, misunderstands the situation and at the end of her short visit pecks Gilly on the cheek and says, “I’ll get you out of here soon. I promise you I will!” Later, when the tired Gilly realizes what her Grandmother’s words mean, she thinks, “Oh, my God.” Her fairytale is coming to an end.

The reader, who now loves Trotter as much as Gilly does, also feels like the world is ending. Nonnie, whose heart has been broken by the loss of two children and her husband over the years, is excited to have a granddaughter in her life. She is a bright woman and soon realizes that Gilly doesn’t share her excitement. She sincerely tells Gilly “I’d hoped you’d be glad to come with me. I’m sorry.” To this Gilly thinks, “If you’re sorry, turn this old crate around and take me back.” A good reader will realize that it isn’t as bad as it seems. Gilly’s grandmother clearly cares for Gilly and is going to provide a good home. Trotter and friends are just one hour away. There are letters, and telephone calls, and possible visits. It’s not like Paterson condemned Gilly to an underground prison with an ogre for a jailor.

This still doesn’t answer the question of why the author put Grandma into the plot. If the book ended simply with Gilly going away to live with grandma after discovering such love at Trotter’s home it truly would be a disappointing anticlimactic ending. Paterson is too good an author to ruin a good fairytale. She’s too good an author to write a fairytale in the first place. No, the purpose of Grandma in the plot is to take Gilly, a young student of love, and see if she can pass a critical test.

Out of love for Gilly, Nonnie contacts the daughter who abandoned Nonnie without a word thirteen years earlier and pays her way to come back to visit Gilly. Gilly and Nonnie meet Courtney at the airport with anxious excitement. Their bubble is soon burst when Nonnie discovers and wonders that Courtney is only planning to stay two days. As Courtney puts it, “Look. I came, didn’t I? Don’t start pushing me before I’m hardly off the plane. My god, I’ve been gone thirteen years, and you still think you can tell me what to do.” After Gilly’s lifelong dreams of her perfect mother this is a punch to the kidneys. Her immediate reaction is to run away to the first source of love since her mother abandoned her at three years old—Maime Trotter. From a phone at the airport she calls Trotter in tears and tells her she wants to “come home.” Trotter, who no doubt loves Gilly very much, tells Gilly a thing or two about life. She then asks the question—a question which is like the final exam in a class on real love—speaking of Gilly’s grandmother, a woman who also desperately needs love in her life, she says, “And leave her all alone? Could you do that?” In a dramatic moment Gilly realizes that, no, she can’t do what her mother did to her grandmother. From Trotter, Gilly has learned too well about loving in situations where it is tough to love. Running back to Trotter would be like a high school graduate refusing to graduate because they are afraid of what comes next.

Watching the angry, cruel Gilly Hopkins being transformed by Trotter into a girl who trusts and loves again is beautiful and fulfilling. The reader revels in the scene of Gilly speaking of her mother (Trotter), her brother (William Earnest), and of her uncle (Mr. Randolph). An average writer’s work would be done. But Paterson isn’t satisfied. She decides to test this new Gilly and see who she is under stress. Will she revert to the cruel, heartbroken Gilly? Or has Gilly truly become a new person. The ending says it all.

“Trotter”— She couldn’t push the word hard enough to keep the squeak out—“I love you.”

“I know, baby. I love you, too.”

She put the phone gently on the hook and went back into the bathroom. There she blew her nose on toilet tissue and washed her face. By the time she got back to an impatient Courtney and a stricken Nonnie, she had herself well under control.

“Sorry to make you wait,” Gilly said. “I’m ready to go home now.” No clouds of glory, perhaps, but Trotter would be proud.

Paterson’s book is no fairytale of easy, imaginary love. She gives us real-world love in a real-world ending. She doesn’t give us a sigh and a wish, but confidence in what really is possible.
Profile Image for Leah Agirlandaboy.
527 reviews10 followers
July 11, 2019
Hmm. Well. I didn’t really like this. Gilly was downright awful, and while I thought it would be kind of a charming reverse-Pollyanna situation, the ratio of horrible Gilly to redeemed Gilly was way, way off. She was a product of her circumstances, sure, but I felt like that might not be apparent to younger readers, AND no character ever stepped in to say, “Hey, let’s not use the n-word and the r-word,” etc. The other characters mostly just shrug, which I found super bizarre for a kids book. Lots of subtle irony that’s too easy to miss if you’re just getting used to your double digits, I reckon. In conclusion, I wouldn��t give this to a kid unless it was stapled to an adult who could tease out the critical thinking it takes for this to not be a book largely about glamorizing being a total shit.
Profile Image for Christopher Hicks.
296 reviews4 followers
January 2, 2017
This book was so completely depressing. At first I couldn't stand this little girl. She was so mean and horrible. Then I realized hurting people hurt people so I felt sorry for her and hoped someone would love her. It showed a glimmer of hope that she would be Happy then it all went downhill. I read this for a Y A book club. I would Never recommend this book to any child. It's just a waste of time.
Profile Image for Amanda .
653 reviews13 followers
February 25, 2020
I purposely went into this popular children's story blind. I'm glad because I didn't have any preconceived ideas going into it. Gilly was not a likeable main character but as all educators know, children who need the most love ask for it in the most unloving ways. I loved Gilly's makeshift family. They weren't what she envisioned but they give her the love and support she was desperately craving. I was let down by the ending. I understand why Paterson chose it, it's just not the ending most readers, especially children, would wish for. This story was much deeper than I had expected and I know several students who could relate to the themes explored in this book.
36 reviews
June 5, 2022
I really enjoyed this book (expect for the swear words). Gilly's character was thought out very well, though, so I can understand why the author added so much language. The ending was very unexpected and bittersweet.
Profile Image for Tina.
18 reviews1 follower
May 21, 2013
This was one of the few books I owned as a child (borrowed most of my books from libraries), so that was probably the reason why I read it over and over, even though I never fell in love with it completely.

But by the second or third reading, I started relating to Gilly more, and came to understand that the toughness she shows is a kind of armor to protect her from being hurt and abandoned once again by the people she loves.

Although pretty short, this book is not an easy read emotionally, as Gilly does her best to make you dislike her during most of the story. I would still recommend this read, because it gives insight into the world of a foster child who was abandoned, and who put up a pretense of toughness to escape hurt, but who in the end just needed a home and someone who would always love her.

Profile Image for Lisa Rathbun.
633 reviews37 followers
December 15, 2014
Gilly has moved from one foster home to another for years and is tough and angry. She hides her mother's picture in her suitcase and longs to be with her. She uses a lot of bad language (no f-bombs; this is a kid's book), but by the end of the book, the ugliness isn't Gilly's vocabulary or the blind old man next door or her hugely obese, sloppy, and loving foster mother. What is truly ugly is Courtney, over whose beautiful picture Gilly has been yearning all her life. We get so little information on her, but what little shows her as selfish, cold, and uncaring.

Important themes to discuss would be how appearances can be deceiving and what a true family is (those who are there to love you) and that life is not easy but hard and challenging. Also I think there's a lesson to be learned about not yearning for the unattainable but to look around you and appreciate what you have. To me, Gilly is not loveable, but she deserves to be loved! When she learns to accept the love that is given and give it back, I cried!
Profile Image for Otchen Makai.
193 reviews51 followers
May 9, 2019
This was/is one of my favorite childhood books, and I really wanted to reread & understand it from an adults perspective.
Perspective-wise, the story seems to change for child vs adult.
What really stood out to me as a child was her rough demeanor and even idolized her a little.
Feelings while reading this as a child were largely astonishment, admiration & a little sadness for the main character, Gilly.
As an adult, understanding better her actions, it's mostly pity but still admiration for her strength.
This story is so many different children's story, and so many adults childhood.
For that reason, and many more, this book is something that helps a child and or an adult to put another's life into perspective.
For those who have been in Gilly's situation, maybe it might help them not feel so alone to know there are others out there who identify with their feelings and what they've been through.
Whatever your stance in life, it's still an amazing read.
Profile Image for Karen.
60 reviews38 followers
March 21, 2016
Gilly is a hard headed little brat focused on making things difficult for people around her but she soon realizes that life is actually hard, and what you want, may not be what you really need.

This is a children's book but it does not adhere to the traditional - 'And they all lived happily ever after..' - and that's one of the main reasons I like it. The characterization in too is done well and you can actually feel Gilly's anger at her circumstances through the writing.

Recommended reading for middle grade children
Profile Image for Noreen Kirbos.
5 reviews
March 6, 2009
I am a fifth grade teacher, and read this book while teaching from it to one of my reading groups. I have used it every year since, and it gets better with each reading.

Katherine Paterson's storytelling and descriptive qualities are top-notch. Her characters become so real to the readers, and the storyline unfolds to a greater depth on each page. This book will not disappoint, whether read by a child or an adult!
Profile Image for Elizabeth .
1,012 reviews
December 6, 2016
Man, it has been a long time since I have read this. It was a great listen today at work. Listening today as an adult, my favorite line in this heart wrenching book is when Gilly finally sees the mother who abandoned her and thinks to herself that her dreams of her mother are shattered and her mother is nothing more than a "a flower child gone to seed." God Bless Gilly and all the children in the world out there who are living in her same circumstances.
Profile Image for Mary Emma Sivils.
237 reviews13 followers
February 23, 2022
"If life is so bad, how come you’re so happy?"

"Did I say bad? I said it was tough. Nothing to make you happy like doing good on a tough job, now is there?"

This is the kind of book that doesn't need length to bring its characters to life. Every word paints a vivid picture of Gilly's experiences in her new foster home. Gilly, as a troubled child, is certainly not a role model. This is middle grade fiction, but because of the language Gilly uses and her attitude toward people, I'd have to think twice before recommending it to a kid. In spite of that, I sympathized with her. The insecurities and baggage she held beneath her hard exterior tugged at my heart.
For awhile, I thought the story was going to end with everything happy and perfect, and I wanted to roll my eyes. I wished it could be a little more realistic.
Then it ended, and it wasn't happy and perfect. As a matter of fact, it was the opposite. And I wished it hadn't been quite so realistic.
But it left me with just enough hope that someday Gilly Hopkins would find her way.
I think that's exactly what the author was trying to communicate through this story. Life isn't easy. It's full of contradictions, confusion, hopes, and disappointments. Life is tough.

But that doesn't mean it's bad.
Profile Image for Jenny.
612 reviews3 followers
September 30, 2020
2020 Popsugar Challenge-Read a banned book during Banned Books Week

This book has been challenged/banned for strong language and racist content.

Language. Gilly is angry through much of the book and it comes out in her behavior and the way she talks. Her language feels true to life to me for a girl in her situation.

Racist Comments. Yes, they are there. They illustrate Gilly's defensive nature and lack of understanding. There are also comments about overweight people and Gilly uses the "r" word in reference to her foster brother having a hard time reading. As the book progresses Gilly's views do as well. I grew to love Gilly as she learned to love and trust others.
Profile Image for Cynthia Egbert.
2,080 reviews24 followers
February 13, 2020
This is also a revisit due to a class requirement. This is not one that I was looking forward to revisiting. This is one of the most depressing books that I have ever read. That has not changed since I read it back in 2015. It is an important book that opens up great discussion but it hurts my heart and it stays with me. I suppose that is the whole idea...
Profile Image for Linda Jackson.
Author 0 books71 followers
July 28, 2020
The first time I tried to read this book, I hated it and stopped reading after a few chapters. The next few times I tried to read this book, I still hated it and, again, stopped after a few chapters. I skipped to the end and was glad that Gilly had gotten what she deserved.

So tell me why, after all those attempts, I went back to this book in an attempt to read it AGAIN. I guess the umpteenth time must be the charm, or perhaps I have grown as a reader and have learned not to judge the whole book on the initial attitude of its main character.

This time around, I pushed past my dislike for the main character and learned to "listen" to what she is trying to say. This time around, I was enthralled by the story and its charming cast of characters. This time around, I loved the book so much that I immediately watched the movie afterward, and I know I will watch it again as well as read the book again.

This time around, I loved the Great Gilly Hopkins. And any reader who is generous enough to give her half a chance (as Maime Trotter, Mr. Randolph, and Miss Harris do) will learn, by book's end, to love her too.
Profile Image for Natalie.
2,758 reviews131 followers
April 24, 2021
One of the meh-est of meh books I've ever read.

I read lots of reviews where people either LOVED it so much and thought Gilly was just the best or HATED Gilly and thought she was a little racist brat. (Which, to be fair, she kinda was.)

I didn't feel any strong emotions either way. I think that has to do with a couple of reasons. Anyone that's been following my reviews, has probably noticed a whole slew of Newbery books come through. I'm currently working on reading all the medal and honor books. Foster children, adopted children, abandoned children, just plain difficult children, etc., looking for their place is a VERY common theme among all the Newberry books. VERY. Common. It is an important theme, but I've been so inundated with it lately that I've lost all feeling for it. I just plain don't care anymore. It's grown old and stale to me. So when I encounter books with "Gilly's" in them, I just feel a bit bored. I don't really care.

I did quirk an eyebrow or two at the blatantly racist comments Gilly makes, and I don't really care for them. I didn't blink an eye at her bad language or poor behavior, because I've seen it so much.

Another thing is, I don't really like any of Paterson's other books, so I wasn't expecting much. I hate "Bridge to Terabithia" and thought "Jacob, Have I Loved," was weird with the old man crush. I've noticed in the Newberry library there seem to be certain authors that appear again and again, and I don't really know how I feel about that. I feel like maybe we've missed out on some great books because certain authors were given preferential treatment. I have no proof of that, but it does seem odd to me that the same authors get awarded again and again and I don't really think it's fair.

The audio was well done, I just didn't care for the story that much.
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