Newbery Verdict: The Great Gilly Hopkins

IMG_0428Book: The Great Gilly Hopkins (1978)
Author: Katherine Paterson
Publisher: Harper & Row
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Newbery Honor Book (1979)

Opening Lines of the Book…

“Gilly,” said Miss Ellis with a shake of her long blonde hair toward the passenger in the back seat. “I need to feel that you are willing to make some effort.”


Gilly is such a tough girl who’s been hurt by the system. She’s been in and out of foster care and really just wants to be with her mother. But she gets sent to Trotter instead. And what a character Trotter is! Not to mention the shy foster brother, William Ernest, and the neighbor Trotter treats like a member of the household, Mr. Randolph. Gilly has a hard time with all these “misfits.” But little by little, these people break their way into Gilly’s hardened heart.

There’s also the teacher. She tries to connect with Gilly over Gilly’s name: Galadriel. And finally, we meet the grandmother. This is Gilly’s key to her mom, the elusive Courtney. Gilly wants nothing more than to connect with Courtney, and suddenly there’s an opportunity to go to her grandmother’s. She has high hopes of a happily ever after. But … well, things don’t turn out quite as she expects. However, Trotter has some wonderful words for Gilly.


This book truly is one of Katherine Paterson’s masterpieces. It only got the Newbery Honor. The Westing Game won for this year. Also a good book, but I (personally) like this one a tiny bit better. Yes, it’s that good. Gilly’s character arc in this story is stunning.

P.S. A side note: Gilly is NOT the kindest person in this book! I think that’s what makes this book seem so real. She’s had a tough life. She uses rough language (although, by today’s standards, it’s pretty tame); Paterson writes it like Gilly would say it. But I think it works to the credit of the book as we see the character growth beneath the words.


Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!

Newbery Verdict Reading Challenge: This is a personal challenge for me to read books that have either won the Newbery Medal or are a Newbery Honor book. The Newbery is named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. Since 1922, this annual award has given to the author of the “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” A Newbery Honor book is given to the runners-up. (Note: This year is the 100th Anniversary of the Award!)

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

8 thoughts on “Newbery Verdict: The Great Gilly Hopkins

  1. Thanks for the rereview I had a teacher who LOVED this one, but he’s been gone ten years, and I’ve wondered how it’s held up. I’ve read so many books that don’t, but hate to reread if I don’t have to.


  2. I love this book a lot, but I also love the movie even more with Sophie Nelisse (Book Thief), Kathy Bates, Bill Cobbs and Glenn Close. Katherine Paterson plays a small role in this movie, which is produced by her son. It is a little more contemporary than the book.


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