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The Great Gilly Hopkins
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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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?
Themes & Topics
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