The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson

Life is not perfect, nor happy, but good things can come out of any situation.

Gilly Hopkins is a foster child who is being placed in her third home. Her mother is alive and sometimes contacts her through the mail, but never comes to see her. Gilly felt loved in her first home, but after they moved and she was placed in another home, she develops an attitude to protect her heart.
My daughter was assigned The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
for class in the 4th grade. After reading several reviews, I wanted to read through it before she did to make sure it was appropriate for her. I decided she was ready to read something at this level.
In the book, Gilly meets Maime Trotter, William Earnest and their next-door neighbor and learns how to live as a family. At her new school, she decided to show the teacher just how smart she is, but she keeps the other children at an arm’s length, fully expecting to leave soon. She reaches out to her mother when she reaches her maximum frustration level and even tries to run away to find her mother. However, the more time she spends with her foster family, the more she learns that not everyone is going to give up on her.
While I would recommend parents read this along with their children if they are 12 or younger, the book is full of great lessons for children to learn. Discussions can revolve around foster children, understanding why some children act out to get attention, and judging people on appearance.
It mentions in passing a kid at school’s mom running away with a sailor and in Sunday school they are talking about the 10 commandments and Gilly earns money telling kids what adultery means, but the book doesn’t say what she says. There are a few “hells” and one “god” for cussing and a few mean words.
The main lesson, though, is the ending of the book. Without giving it away, the book teaches that a good ending does not have to mean leaving the characters perfectly happy. Life is not perfect, nor happy, but good things can come out of any situation.
This book would be good for a teen book club or any child 12 or older. Mature, younger children should read it with a parent.
Katherine Paterson also wrote The Bridge to Terabithia, among other books. More information on Paterson and her books can be found at

About Sarah Anne Carter

Sarah Anne Carter is a writer and reader. She grew up all over the world as a military brat and is now putting down roots with her family in Ohio. Family life keeps her busy, but any spare moment is spent reading, writing or thinking about plots for novels.