The Great Gilly Hopkins

The Great Gilly Hopkins

4.0 142
by Katherine Paterson

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At eleven, Gilly is nobody's real kid. If only she could find her beautiful mother, Courtney, and live with her instead of in the ugly foster home where she has just been placed! How could she, the great Gilly Hopkins, known throughout the county for her brilliance and unmanageability, be expected to tolerate Maime Trotter, the fat, nearly illiterate widow who is

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At eleven, Gilly is nobody's real kid. If only she could find her beautiful mother, Courtney, and live with her instead of in the ugly foster home where she has just been placed! How could she, the great Gilly Hopkins, known throughout the county for her brilliance and unmanageability, be expected to tolerate Maime Trotter, the fat, nearly illiterate widow who is now her guardian? Or for that matter, the freaky seven-year-old boy and the shrunken blind black man who are also considered part of the bizarre "family"? Even cool Miss Harris, her teacher, is a shock to her.

Gutsy Gilly is both poignant and comic as, behind her best barracuda smile, she schemes against them and everyone else who tries to be friendly. The reader will cheer for her as she copes with the longings and terrors of always being a foster child.

Katherine Paterson, winner of the 1978 Newbery Medal for Bridge to Terabithia and of the 1977 National Book Award for The Master Puppeteer, again reaches across boundaries with her wit, compassion, and love, and here creates an immensely engaging story about a child's desperate search for a place to call home.

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Editorial Reviews

The arrogant, bitter heroine of this moving story is a wisecracking, gum-chewing kid who has been shuttled from one foster home to another. . . . [She is portrayed] with warmth and wit, in a story filled with love and compassion.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Great Gilly Hopkins

Welcome to Thompson Park

"Gilly,"said Miss Ellis with a shake of her long blonde hair toward the passenger in the back seat. "I need to feel that you are willing to make some effort."

Galadriel Hopkins shifted her bubble gum to the front of her mouth and began to blow gently. She blew until she could barely see the shape of the social worker's head through the pink bubble.

"This will be your third home in less than three years." Miss Ellis swept her golden head left to right and then began to turn the wheel in a cautious maneuver to the left. "I would be the last person to say that it was all your fault. The Dixons' move to Florida, for example. just one of those unfortunate things. And Mrs. Richmond having to go into the hospital"-it seemed to Gilly that there was a long, thoughtful pause before the caseworker went on-"for her nerves.."


Miss Ellis flinched and glanced in the rear-view mirror but continued to talk in her calm, professional voice while Gilly picked at the bits of gum stuck in her straggly bangs and on her cheeks and chin. "We should have been more alert to her condition before placing any foster child there. I should have been more alert." Cripes, thought Gilly. The woman was getting sincere. What a pain. "I'm not trying to blame you, Gilly. It's just that I need, we all need, your cooperation if any kind of arrangement is to work out." Another pause. "I can't imagine you enjoy all this moving around." The blue eyes in the mirror were checking out Gilly's response. "Now this new foster mother is very different from Mrs. Nevins." Gilly calmly pinched a blob of gum offthe end of her nose. There was no use trying to get the gum out of her hair. She sat back and tried to chew the bit she had managed to salvage. It stuck to her teeth in a thin layer. She fished another ball of gum from her jeans pocket and scraped the lint off with her thumbnail before elaborately popping it into her mouth.

"Will you do me a favor, Gilly? Try to get off on the right foot?"

Gilly had a vision of herself sailing around the living room of the foster home on her right foot like an ice skater. With her uplifted left foot she was shoving the next foster mother square in the mouth. She smacked her new supply of gum in satisfaction.

"Do me another favor, will you? Get rid of that bubble gum before we get there?"

Gilly obligingly took the gum out of her mouth while Miss Ellis's eyes were still in the mirror. Then when the social worker turned her attention back to the traffic, Gilly carefully spread the gum under the handle of the left-hand door as a sticky surprise for the next person who might try to open it.

Two traffic lights farther on Miss Ellis handed back a towelette. "Here," she said, "see what you can do about that guck on your face before we get there."

Gilly swiped the little wet paper across her mouth and dropped it on the floor.

"Gilly-" Miss Ellis sighed and shifted her fancyon-the-floor gears. "Gilly-"

"My name," Gilly said between her teeth, "is Galadriel."

Miss Ellis appeared not to have heard. "Gilly, give Maime Trotter half a chance, OK? She's really a nice person."

That cans it, thought Gilly. At least nobody had accused Mr. or Mrs. Nevins, her most recent foster parents, of being "nice." Mrs. Richmond, the one with the bad nerves, had been "nice." The Newman family, who couldn't keep a five-year-old who wet her bed, had been "nice." Well, I'm eleven now, folks, and, in case you haven't heard, I don't wet my bed anymore. But I am not nice. I am brilliant. I am famous across this entire county. Nobody wants to tangle with the great Galadriel Hopkins. I am too clever and too hard to manage. Gruesome Gilly, they call me. She leaned back comfortably. Here I come, Maime baby, ready or not.

They had reached a neighborhood of huge trees and old houses. The social worker slowed and stopped beside a dirty white fence. The house it penned was old and brown with a porch that gave it a sort of potbelly.

Standing on the porch, before she rang the bell, Miss Ellis took out a comb. "Would you try to pull this through your hair?"

Gilly shook her head. "Can't."

"Oh, come on, Gilly-"

"No. Can't comb my hair. I'm going for the Guiness Record for uncombed hair."

"Gilly, for pete's sake . . ."

"Hey, there, I thought I heard y'all pull up." The door had opened, and a huge hippopotamus of a woman was filling the doorway. "Welcome to Thompson Park, Gilly, honey."

"Galadriel," muttered Gilly, not that she expected this bale of blubber to manage her real name. Jeez, they didn't have to put her in with a freak.

Half a small face, topped with muddy brown hair and masked with thick metal-rimmed glasses, jutted out from behind Mrs. Trotter's mammoth hip.

The woman looked down. "Well, 'scuse me, honey." She put her arm around the head as if to draw it forward, but the head resisted movement. "You want to meet your new sister, don't you? Gilly, this is William Ernest Teague."

The head immediately disappeared behind Mrs. Trotter's bulk. She didn't seem bothered. "Come in, come in. I don't mean to leave you standing on the porch like you was trying to sell me something. You belong here now." She backed up. Gilly could feel Miss Ellis's fingers on her backbone gently prodding her through the doorway and into the house.

Inside, it was dark and crammed with junk. Everything seemed to need dusting...

The Great Gilly Hopkins. Copyright © by Katherine Paterson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 143 reviews.
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
Eleven-year-old Galadriel Hopkins ("Gilly" to the plebs she is forced to mix with in foster care) is not known for being cute or cuddly. Instead, she is the girl with the harsh words, mean attitude and, most recently, the really big bubble of gum that blew up in her face. Gilly is not the girl any foster parent in their right mind would want to adopt. Which is just fine with Gilly because she already has a mother. A real mother. A movie star beautiful mother named Courtney Rutherford Hopkins who misses her and wishes they could be together. For Gilly, that's enough. Knowing that somewhere Courtney is wishing for her daughter as badly as Gilly is wishing for her mother can get Gilly through anything. At least, it could before she arrived at Mrs. Trotter's front door. Everything about this foster home is wrong. Trotter is fat and ugly. William Ernest, the other foster child, isn't too quick on the uptake. And (gasp) a wrinkled, old black man lives next door. Trotter and her band of misfits might be more bizarre than Gilly could ever imagine. But could they also be just what she needs? It's enough to make Gilly hatch an escape plan (or three) in The Great Gilly Hopkins (1978) by Katherine Paterson. First things first: The Great Gilly Hopkins was the 1979 Newbery Honor book (The Westing Game won the gold that year). It made it to #55 in Betsy Bird's Top 100 Children's Novels poll. I haven't been following the poll too closely because the posts overwhelm me, but the segment about Gilly is necessarily relevant to this review. Katherine Paterson herself was also just recently appointed National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. In other words, everything about this book is a big deal. Personally, I had very mixed feelings about The Great Gilly Hopkins (although I'm finding that to be true about a lot of children's classics lately). On the one hand I wanted very badly to be on Gilly's side and pull for her as an abandoned child that really needs someone to love her in her own right, not as a temporary commodity. On the other hand, Gilly works so hard at pushing people away that, at a certain point, it becomes hard to care too much or cheer too loudly for this girl who is all hard edges and anger. This next part is going to have spoilers because just about everyone in the entire world has already read this book: Paterson does a great job creating Gilly as a character she is fully developed even though she is loathe to tell readers everything about her less-than-ideal past in the foster system. The book also handles a bold topic: looking at a little girl who is in the foster system not because she is an orphan but because her parent did not want her. The abandonment is extreme and, in the story, becomes palpable even as Gilly clings to the idealized vision she's created for her mother from a photograph and a note. That said, I also had a lot of issues with the book. Gilly is essentially racist at the beginning of the story. She does grow and evolve and move past that, but it's one of those elements that seemed to be added to a book for a wow/edgy factor than for the actual story (in other words, I don't know that Gilly had to be racist to make the book work). It also seems like race wouldn't have been such a hot topic by that time--I might be mistaken though since I wasn't actually alive in 1978. The adults in the novel also bothered me. A lot. If the grandmother cared so much about Gilly why was she
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book in 5th grd...Haha great book to read together :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book 4 school and i really didnt enjoy it. Gilly is rude and uses bad language, the characters are boring, and the story was just really lacking something essential to make it an enjoyable read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This okay book is about a girl named Gilly Hopkins. This novel has some strong language so I recomend do not let younger children read without premisson so keep that in mind if a younger child wants to read this book. Happy reading!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The great gilly hopkins was a fun book. It is now one of my all time favorites. The ending turned out a little weird but some are. My favorite character in this book was William Ernest or W.E. in the beginning Gilly thinks he's retarded but he really is smarter than he looks.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Omg this book is like totally amazing. I read this book all the time when im bored. It never gets old! Although the book is short it is awsome i defanatly recomend this book. GET IT!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book my sixth grade teacher read it to us in language arts. There was some cure words in it and gilly was racist so i wouldnt recommend it for young kids without their parents permission.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great book really a page turner katherine paterson is a spectacular author
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was good, but it did have some problems. There was some bad words. The main character was racist.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a delight to read. Gilly is a stubborn and determined six grade girl who is hardened by her life experience. Wanting something and getting it are two different things as shown in this book; Becareful of what you wish for!
Guest More than 1 year ago
it was a surprisingly really good book! going from foster home to foster gilly all twisted but it is a great book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is preety good one of the things that rok is the swearing. ;)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book for the first time about twenty five years ago. Even though i was young, the theme "what makes a family" still stuck with me. Even though Gilly is a troubled young girl, she realizes that even though she has a biological mom , Trotter was more of a mother to her than she ever had.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had to read this for school in 4th and I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! this is a awesome book and will recamend it to everybody!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Gilly Hopkins learns a valuable lesson. 'Don't judge a book by its cover.' And i learned that lesson when i had to read this book. this book might look boring or not interesting, but once you get into the book it is a amazing tale about how gilly goes through life. and how hard it is...and i know some people can relate to that!:)
Guest More than 1 year ago
being a adopted child.. i think this book relates alot to my real life.. she doesn't knwo her real mother but trys to work with her families.. she rebells at first btu trualy loves her ' family ' alot and is very upset when she is taken away from them and must live with her reali grandmother and finds out that her reali mother lied in her loving letters and does not want her to come live with her and onli vists her so she will get sent money for her drug habbits.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book in the fifth grade, and it changed my life forever. It opened my eyes, made me more thoughtful. Ten years later, I still pause to think about Gilly. An amazing book for all kids in her stage of life. It's about overcoming one's own quickness to judge others unfairly, and finding goodness and love in the most unexpected places.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great book Quick read if you have to read it in 2 days!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
In this book there is a girl named Galadrial Hopkins and she has been in a foster home for long time. She is about to go live with a new family that she dose not like. she said there house was dirty and dusty.When the foster care people tried to talk to her she did not listen.They took her to the Trotter family. Mrs Trotter had there neighbor Mr. Randolf over for dinner every day. Mr.Randolf was blind. Mrs. Trotter also had a son named William Ernast. Gilly grew to like and respect the family. I recommend you read this book so you can find out what else happend.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After I read this book, I just wanted to read it again. Gilly is a foster child who never stays in one foster home for too long, until she gets stuck with Trotter. She hates her new family and life and she is yearning to meet her real mother. Throughout the book Gilly learns to love and respect her new family, but one day her grandmother comes knocking at the door and her whole life is changed. I recommend this to kids who like reading about family because this book does show you the true meaning.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is ok i am a 5th grader i dont really like 2 read books but this one is the the third book i ever read my 5th grede class likes it thsts y i gave it a 3
Guest More than 1 year ago
I like this book because it gives older foster children a story to read that relates to their lives. The story offers realistic views on some of the challenges encountered in foster care. The book also offers hope. -Cynthia Miller Lovell, author of The Star: A story to help young children understand foster care, and Questions & Activities for The Star: A handbook for foster parents
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book, it allways kept me on my toes and keeped wanting to read more. There was allways a new and exciting thing goin on. This was a great book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book The Great Gilly Hopkins is great. It is by Katherine Paterson. I enjoyed reading it. That is why I gave It five stars. It is about a froster child named Gilly. She never stays at one froster home for long. She acts big and bad. She gets moved to a new home. Her care giver is Trotter. She has another child named William Earnest. Gilly is trying to get home to her mother in California. She steals money from Mr. randolph and Trotter. When she gets enough money she goes to the ticket station to get a ticket. She has to wait though. While she is waiting the ticket man calls the cops. They take her back to Trotter. Gilly doesn't know what to do. She wants to be with her mother, but she can't find away to do it. I reccomend this book to kids who like books about family. I also would reccomend it to froster kids. They would be able to relate to it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My 6th grade class in los Angelos,California is reading it and they love love it. LOVE THE BOOK!!!!!!!!!