The Great Gilly Hopkins
by Katherine Paterson [j Paterson]
When we first meet Gilly Hopkins, we learn that in the past three years she's already been in two different foster homes. When her caseworker Miss Elllis turns into the driveway of yet another home, she asks Gilly to get rid of her bubble gum before they get out. Gilly obliges -- by spreading her gum "under the handle of the left-hand door as a surprise for the next person who might try to open it". Seconds within her arrival at her new foster home, Gilly has sat herself down at a piano stool and is pounding out "Chopsticks". Before you think Gilly is just acting out, listen to some of her thoughts about her new foster mom: "What an awful smile she had" and "Listening to that woman was like licking melted ice-cream off the carton." Gilly is one angry girl! Yet underneath all the bravado and attitude, there's a girl who wants to be liked. You see, no family has kept Gilly long enough for Gilly to consider it worth her time to unpack her suitcase at each new place. As for that suitcase, Gilly carries a photograph in it of her mom -- and that photo is the only thing that remotely triggers tears. Unfortunately, just because Gilly has a heart that doesn't mean Gilly is easy to like. Quite the opposite! Gilly is a porcupine with her quills always bared. If this were any other book, Gilly's new guardian Maime Trotter might instantly win her over and the rest of the book would be about how love changed Gilly. But this is a realistic portrayal of a foster kid, inspired by Paterson's own experience of being a foster mom, and so love doesn't come easy to Gilly. In the process of learning to accept Maime Trotter, Gilly talks back to adults, tells the only girl at school who attempts to be friends with her that she makes Gilly sick, gets into fights, and steals from her neighbor. She also keeps writing her mom, telling her about how horrible life is, and asking to be rescued. The story takes an unexpected twist when Gilly receives a response to her letter. In The Great Gilly Hopkins, Katherine Paterson has created a brat whom we grow to love despite Gilly's best attempts to antagonize everyone. -- review submitted by Allison H.-F. - a customer of the Bennett Martin Public Library
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