The Great Gilly Hopkins

Common Sense Media says

A great choice for reluctant readers.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Gilly begins with severe prejudice against African-Americans but grows to love both the black people in her life. The main character steals from a blind man, sends a racial taunt to her teacher, beats up kids, and defies all authority.

Not applicable
Not applicable

Occasional religiously themed profanity.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this book is highly appealing, especially to kids beginning to rebel against authority. Fresh and inventive writing keeps readers engrossed.

Parents say

Kids say

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 who's only weapon is total love for her foster kids. Can Gilly prevail against that? A great choice for reluctant readers.

Is it any good?


She beats boys up. She terrorizes teachers. She drives unsuspecting foster parents to nervous breakdowns. Katherine Paterson has created a believable character in Gilly, and readers learn how pain drives the bad behavior of this foster kid.

Gilly thinks she's smarter than any authority figure -- until she meets a woman who has had little education but who has wisdom in spades. Mrs. Trotter knows kids, and she knows how to handle Gilly. 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 are satisfied with the ending, as Gilly resolves her issues and learns to love and be loved.

Families can talk 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?

Book details

Author:Katherine Paterson
Genre:Family Life
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:January 1, 1978
Number of pages:148

This review of The Great Gilly Hopkins was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 11 years old July 17, 2010

You should read it!

I'm reading it right now! It's awesome so far. I had to read it for my upcoming sixth grade.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Educational value
Great messages
Kid, 10 years old February 17, 2011

Not so good

This is a hard book to read, Gilly is races and she uses bad language consistantly, I think this is not a book for little kids.
Adult Written byroosevelt school November 11, 2009

Not for everyone

Mr. Kurz Per. 1 The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson is a realistic fiction novel that begins in Thompson Park, Maryland in the 1970s. Gilly, the main character, is a smart but very violent girl who is motivated to find her mother. She has been moving around as a foster child for eight years and tries to sabotage every relationship she has. Trotter, Gilly’s new foster mother, is a loving, caring person, but Gilly does not want to have anything to do with her. Two of her other disappointments at Trotter’s are her new foster brother, W.E., who she thinks may be retarded, and her blind neighbor, Mr. Randolph, who happens to be black. Slowly, throughout the book, Gilly’s feelings begin to change. After receiving a letter from Courtney, Gilly writes a letter back to her mother with false information exaggerating how unhappy she was at Trotter’s. She hopes this letter will re-unite her with Courtney; however, it drastically changes Gilly’s life in a way that she didn’t intend. The author shows how hard the life of a foster parent or child can be, being that she herself was only able to handle that responsibility for a few months. Some of the lessons that Paterson teaches through Gilly’s experiences are that life does not always have a happy ending, and people should find something positive in their lives and make the best of it. This book is realistic in that it includes real-life problems and believable characters. Clever similes and metaphors are placed throughout the story, while characterization is incorporated to keep readers gripped. Paterson effectively changes the mood and pace at which the story is read, and breaks up narration with dialogue. The writing leads readers to believe the story will go one way, when suddenly the plot takes a sudden turn. Every time a reader comes to the end of a chapter, Paterson makes them want to read more with clever foreshadowing. This book best fits a young, mature reader, but it is recommended to people who enjoy emotional, unique books. Foster children who are disappointed with their lives, could learn to make the best of it, while foster parents will be able to relate to Trotter as they probably had to deal with kids like Gilly.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Educational value


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