The Great Gilly Hopkins



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.

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

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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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What parents and kids say

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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
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 12 year old Written bynancycaregiver September 12, 2010

Great for tweens and older children.

I read this book with my 12 year old son. Yes, the child in the story uses some mild profanity and she is prejudice against African-Americans in the beginning. She is also a bully in the beginning. My son understood that the girl had led a very rough life and she had become hardened because of all the foster homes she had been in. She ends up having a lot of respect for the African-American teacher she tried to annoy and a deep love for the African-American blind neighbor. She is a very bright girl and could be a good role model except for the bully issue. She ends up doing the right thing in the end. My son got the story and seemed to really enjoy it.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Educational value
Great messages


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