Children's Lit Book Reviews

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Great Gilly Hopkins
By: Katherine Paterson
Publisher: Harper Collins
Copyright: 1978
Pages: 160
Reading Level: 9-12
Genre: Realistic fiction
Award: Newbery Honor
"This Newbery Honor Book manages to treat a somewhat grim, and definitely grown-up theme with love and humor, making it a terrific read for a young reader who's ready to learn that "happy" and "ending" don't always go together."
- Review
Summary: Gilly Hopkins is an eleven year old brat who continually finds herself in and out of foster homes. She has a made up a fantasy of what her mother is as she continually receives postcards from her without any return addresses of them. Her social worker, Miss Ellis, finally pulls some strings and has her moved to what hopefully will be her last foster home. As Gilly pulls up to Mrs. Maime Trotter's' home, she begins her famous, yet very manipulative, acts. However, Mrs. Trotter refuses to budge, and Gilly realizes she is about to deal with her own social issues such as racism. This is because everyone who surrounds her at this time is African American, including her teacher, Miss Harris, and Trotter's good friend and neighbor, Mr. Randolph. While living at the Trotter's home, Gilly initially gets into trouble as usual, scuffling with other students at school and leaving a racist and rude homemade card for her teacher. The only student at school who tries to strike up a friendship with her is a loathsome girl named Agnes Stokes who follows Gilly around in spite of her constant insults. Eventually, Gilly uses both Agnes and William Ernest to find some money in Mr. Randolph's book case and pays Agnes off with only 5 dollars. As she attempts to purchase a bus ticket to San Fransisco where Courtney, Gilly's mother, lives, she finds herself being snatched up by the local police. In spite of her desire to leave, Gilly eventually discovers she actually likes her new foster family and teacher. She begins teaching William Ernest to read and to defend himself against bullies. She also reads Mr. Randolph's books from his large library. In school, Gilly comes to an understanding with Miss Harris and begins to excel in her school studies. Just as Gilly settles into her new life, she is uprooted once again. Courtney receives Gilly's letter, and has requests that the state relinquish custody of Gilly to her biological grandmother. Gilly requests to stay with Trotter, but the matter is out of her hands, and she is taken to live with her grandmother in Viriginia, who wishes to be called Nonnie. Gilly bonds with Nonnie and tries to adapt to her new environment. When she learns that her mother is coming to Virginia for Christmas, she is excited because she believes that her longtime dream of a reunion is coming true. Courtney arrives, but Gilly is shattered because she immediately learns that her mother isn't going to stay in Virginia or take her back to San Francisco. Courtney didn't even want to come for the holidays, and she only consented to visit because Nonnie paid for her ticket. After calling Trotter one last time and begging to go back, Gilly finally accepts her new home. Gilly is heartbroken, but decides she will cope with the situation, just to make Trotter proud.
Who would benefit from reading this book? I think that this is a pretty decent novel with some good lessons that are taught within it. I definitely think it should be a book that 5th graders to even middle scholars need to read. The main character is a female, but I do believe that most males could relate to her in some way, making this a book that would beneficial all.
What problems/concerns could this book potentially cause? I don't think that this book contains any problems and or concerns. However, many people might disagree because of slight language problems and some racial problems that are throughout this book. I think, in this case, it's appropriate because it's used to depict a girl who will eventually change and love what she once hated and despised.
My reaction: I thought that this book was a little slow. I didn't really like it and found myself putting it down several times. But there are great lessons taught within its pages, and I think it shows a selfish girl slowly becoming more and more loving one day at time. She realizes that she truly took a situation for granted after it was taken from her, and that is a classic life example.
posted by Jon Dale at 6:58 PM


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