The Great Gilly Hopkins

Book review by
Monica Wyatt, Common Sense Media
The Great Gilly Hopkins Book Poster Image
Brash foster-kid tale a great choice for reluctant readers.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 21 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Bad behavior can come from a place of deep pain. Even the worst-behaving kid can be transformed by love. Racial prejudice can be overcome when you get to know someone of that race.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Gilly beats boys up, terrorizes teachers, drives unsuspecting foster parents to nervous breakdowns. She begins with severe prejudice against African-Americans but grows to love both of the African-American people in her life. She steals from a blind man, beats up kids, and defies all authority. She thinks she's smarter than any authority figure -- until she meets Mrs. Trotter, who has had little education but has wisdom in spades. Mrs. Trotter knows kids, and she knows how to handle Gilly. She offers Gilly and all her foster kids unconditional love.


Gilly beats boys up, sends a racial taunt to her teacher.


Occasional religious-themed profanity.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Newbery Honor book The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia), is the story of a girl who's been in foster care all her life and is fixated on the notion that everything would be better if her mother, who abandoned her, would come back to her. She holds onto this idea, especially when she's placed with the quirky Trotter family, which she eventually sees as not so bad after all. Gilly's intent on being unpleasant -- she beats up boys and terrorizes her teachers and a series of foster parents -- will appeal to kids beginning to rebel against authority. Fresh and inventive writing keeps readers engrossed, making this a great choice for reluctant readers.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAmanda N. September 5, 2020

Ton of swearing throughout. Thanking the lords name in vein frequently.

I started This book as an audiobook as a family. The little girl is very rude, very judge mental etc. When we first came to when we first came to several cursew... Continue reading
Adult Written byDesiree Nordstrom June 15, 2020

More than a few swear words

Takes the Lord's name in vain often. Says hell and damn quite a bit. Also calls others names for being over weight, old, religious, african american. I rea... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bystinkyramen7136 April 9, 2020
Teen, 13 years old Written bymaddiem_1212 October 4, 2019

What's the story?

Gilly is one tough kid. She intends to destroy every one of her foster mothers so she can live with her mysterious real mother. She meets her match in Mrs. Trotter, an overweight, uneducated woman whose only weapon is total love for her foster kids. Can Gilly prevail against that?

Is it any good?

Katherine Paterson has created a believable character in Gilly, and readers learn how pain drives the bad behavior of this foster kid. Gilly ridicules Mrs. Trotter's deep religious faith and defies her at every turn, but she just can't escape the woman's relentless love. Readers will be satisfied with the ending, as Gilly resolves her issues and learns to love and be loved. A great choice for reluctant readers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about expectations. Why are Gilly's expectations for her mother so high? How does Gilly try to protect herself from disappointment?

  • How does Gilly compare with other strong female characters? What other books have you read that feature spunky, strong-willed girls?

  • What did you learn about the foster-care system from The Great Gilly Hopkins?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love strong girls

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate