The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Patterson

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The Great Gilly Hopkins is not an easy book to read. Gilly is a child in a difficult situation. She is a child without a family, moved through the foster care system. She does not make it easy for her foster parents, because she believes that her mother loves her and needs her. She dreams of a happy reunion with her mother, who she has not seen for at least 8 years.

Paterson has a way of writing tear-jerker novels that deal with difficult issues that children face. This book is no exception. It takes a talented writer to capture a difficult, cranky kid in a frustrating situation and somehow still manage to make her someone we want to root for. Paterson does that in this book.

It is a difficult book to read because of what we, the readers, see. We know she is a great kid, and that her new home is great. We can see the goodness of her situation. We want it to end well.

Paterson makes her story realistic. How quickly things move as Gilly goes from hating her life to finding peace.

As in other novels by Paterson, it is emotional and difficult to read the realism. It’s a testament to Paterson’s skill and storytelling that the whole story still resonates 30 years after its first publication.

Reviewed on June 16, 2014

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

    • Donna Marie, preaching to the choir! I am in the same boat with so many books. I saw there is a movie of this coming out in the next year so I thought I’d reread it. It is a tough book but I think a strong one. Amazing the staying power of these books.

      • Rebecca, I ended up purchasing this one because an author ( can’t remember who!) mentioned it was the quintessential example of something (can’t remember what!) in writing technique. Of course, if I read it, will I remember what I was supposed to be paying attention to?! lol

  • Oh, Rebecca, this is awful of me, but I’ve never liked a single Katherine Paterson book in all my life. I had to read three of them, including this one, in school as a kid. Hated them all. My heart is made of stone possibly?

    • Jenny, I don’t think everyone has to like sad ending books. Spoiler! It’s really sad in the end because she does not get what she wants. I think most of Paterson’s books are like that. Unlike you, I read them when I was young and ENJOYED them. I cannot remember details of most of them, but I do remember enjoying them when I read them. But I’ve always like sappy things like country songs where people are moaning about loved ones that dumped them. I like the melodrama.

      Which is not to say Paterson is melodramatic. I think she is realistic. But readers often escape to books to escape the annoying difficult hateful things about life. Paterson’s books deal with the difficult and then end with a wrench that reminds you that that is how things stay. So no, I wouldn’t say your heart is made of stone. Maybe you just like to protect it from sad stuff in books you read for fun!

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