The Great Gilly Hopkins Book Poster Image

The Great Gilly Hopkins



Brash foster-kid tale a great choice for reluctant readers.

What parents need to know

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

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.

Not applicable

Occasional religious-themed profanity.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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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 she could be a mother. 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.

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.

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?

  • 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

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

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Teen, 13 years old Written bykrazypanda June 26, 2009
My uncle gave me this book when I turned eight and i loved it. many kids would enjoy
Parent of a 17 year old Written bylove2 September 28, 2009

good but bad rolemodels.

i thought this book was awsome! but i have to admit Gilly isnt a good role model she steals things, swaers, and is someone that nobody wants to be around.
What other families should know
Too much violence
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