Review of “The Great Gilly Hopkins”

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The second book of Katherine Paterson’s that I am reviewing this month is her Newberry Medal-winning, 1978 novel, The Great Gilly Hopkins. 

The novel introduces us to, and follows the story of, eleven-year-old Galadriel Hopkins, better known as Gilly. Unfortunately, Gilly is not only a foster child, but one with a reputation for being a bit unruly, thus leading to her unstable life, being bounced from one foster home and school to another. 

When the social worker turned her attention back to the traffic, Gilly carefully spread the gum under the handle of the left-hand door as a sticky surprise for the next person.”

The above quote gives quite the insight into the main character, Gilly. Always on the lookout for ways to one-up authority, get her own way, and con someone, Gilly feels she has to take care of herself, because no one has ever been there to take care of her, to really love her.

Why did it have to be so hard? Other kids could be with their mothers  all the time.”

The book really gave me insight into what it was like to grow up the product of a broken home. To grow up shifting from one home to another. To not have a mother’s unconditional love. To not have a shoulder to cry on. I really appreciated the way I was able to contrast my growing up years with those of young Gilly, to see how much I have taken for granted all my life. 

“All that stuff about happy endings is lies. The only ending in this world is death.”

Overall, I found The Great Gilly Hopkins to be a wonderful, eye-opening book. A word of caution to parents, however– there is a fair amount of cursing in the book, especially for a child of ten or twelve, including taking the Lord’s Name in vain. However, for a mature reader, I believe it could be a very helpful read. I would give the book a “B”.

Have you read the book? If so, what are your thoughts?

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