Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Book Review: The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson

The Great Gilly Hopkins
by Katherine Paterson

Genre: Juvenile/Middle-grade
Publisher: Heinemann Educational
Publication Date: 1978
Pages: 178
Source: My TBR pile

Literary Awards:
National Book Award for Children's Literature (1979)
Newbery Honor (1979)
Jane Addams Children's Book Award Nominee (1979)
Massachusetts Children's Book Award (1981)
Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award (1980)
Iowa Children's Choice Award (1981(
National Book Award Finalist for Children's Books (Paperback) (1980)

Watch out world! 

The Great Gilly Hopkins is looking for a home. She's a foster kid who's been angry, lonely, and hurting for so long that she's always ready for a fight. Be on the lookout for her best barracuda smile, the one she saves for well-meaning social workers. Watch out for her most fearful look, a cross between Dracula and Godzilla, used especially to scare shy foster brothers. Don't be fooled by her "Who me?" expression, guaranteed to trick foster parents, teachers, and anyone who gets in her way. 

It's Gilly Hopkins vs. the world! And so far, Gilly seems to be winning. But what she doesn't realize is that every time she wins, she really loses, until she discovers a love as formidable as any enemy she's ever known.

My Thoughts:
Moving from foster home to foster home will toughen up a girl. You've got to build up a thick skin to survive all the moving around. Galadriel "Gilly" Hopkins just wants to go live with her mom. She keeps a picture of her in her suitcase and moves it to the bottom of her dresser drawer wherever she moves. When Gilly goes to live with Maime Trotter-a plump, religious woman-Gilly does everything she can to botch her stay. If it doesn't work out there, maybe her mother will finally come get her. What Gilly doesn't realize is that family isn't always blood-related. Sometimes family is something entirely different. 

The biggest theme of this book is family. You see Gilly acting tough and bratty but deep down she is hurt that she can't be with her mother. It has the potential to pull on the reader's heart-strings. You can really sympathize with these characters, from the tough and fiesty Gilly, to shy W.E., to blind Mr. Randolph. And even though there are questions that aren't answered (Why does she know who her mother is but not live with her?!) and the ending isn't as happy as you might think it should be, it's a great book

This book has a lot of tough subjects but it's books like these that show that probably lesser known side of the world.  There's some vivid language (hell, damn, etc) but nothing too bad. There were also a few things that I could agree and disagree with such as how Gilly puts Trotter's religion 'under the bus' and also how she reacts to people of color. The latter is appalling for this day and age but a little understandable for the 1970's.  As for the anti-religion parts of this, I'd advise 'religious fanatics' (as Gilly put it) to avoid this book. To give a little insight into that, I'll add a short passage from the book.
The preacher was as young as the Sunday-school teacher was old. He, too, was high on getting saved and other matters of eternal preservation. But his grammar was worse than Trotter's, and, to Gilly's digust, he'd stumble over words of more than one syllable whenever he read the Bible. Nobody but a religious fanatic would put up with such gross ignorance for over an hour every week of their lives-nobody but religious fanatics and the innocent victims they forced to go to church.

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