The Great Gilly Hopkins

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The Great Gilly Hopkins
The Great Gilly Hopkins cover.jpg
Front cover of unknown edition
Author Katherine Paterson
Country United States
Language English
Genre Children's novel
Publisher Crowell
Publication date
March 28, 1978
Media type Print (hardcover and paperback)
Pages 160 pp (first edition)
ISBN ISBN 978-0-690-03837-8 (first, hard)
OCLC 3542211
LC Class PZ7.P273 Gr

The Great Gilly Hopkins (1978) is a realistic novel for children by Katherine Paterson. A movie based on the novel starring Sophie Nélisse as Gilly Hopkins and Kathy Bates as Trotter is in production and due for release in 2014.[needs update]

Plot summary[edit]

Gilly Hopkins is a mean, brash young girl who is going to another foster home. She hates living with different people all the time and just wants to settle in with her birth mother, Courtney Rutherford Hopkins. While living at Trotter's, a "fat hippo", home, Gilly gets into trouble as usual. She doesn't like how Trotter {her foster mom} looks, and she quickly decides she is going to hate her for the rest of her life.

Gilly hatches up a plan to escape and steals the money she needs for it to work. She knows that her mother lives in San Francisco, so she writes a letter to Courtney saying that her beloved Galadriel will be with her soon. When Gilly escapes the first time, she gets caught by police and Trotter is to immediately come down to the station to retrieve her. Gilly's grandmother, Nonnie, comes to Trotter's house and tells her that she will take her home. {Nonnie previous to this has not known that she had a granddaughter} But now Gilly realizes that she really wants to be with Trotter. However, Gilly has to get picked up by Nonnie, and she goes to Nonnie's house.

Then Gilly has good news: her mother is coming. But when she goes to the airport, Courtney is not the Courtney she remembers: Courtney has become fat, her hair got stringier, and a lot of other things Gilly didn't expect. Gilly also finds out that her mother only came because Nonnie paid her, not because she wanted to come. She realizes for the first time how foolish she had been and that she loves Trotter. The story ends with Gilly on the phone crying to Trotter to take her back.


  • Galadriel "Gilly" Hopkins, the title character of the story, is 11 years old, with straw-colored hair and an unkempt appearance. She does not care for her given name, Galadriel (from the Lord of the Rings books), and prefers to be called "Gilly". Gilly has spent most of her life in foster care, being sent from one home to another. She is extremely brilliant and creative, but is also very bitter, angry and completely unmanageable after years of rejection at the hands of her various foster parents. Later in the book Gilly shows signs of caring for her new foster family, the Trotters.
  • Maime M. Trotter, called "Trotter", is Gilly's new foster mother. She is a large woman who wears glasses and lives in a messy, small and tight spaced house. Trotter is said to be one of the foster care system's most respected caregivers.
  • William Ernest Teague is Gilly's foster brother at Trotter's home. He is seven years old, with brown hair and glasses, and has a nervous disposition. When people make sudden movements around him he often ducks, as if he is expecting to be hit. Gilly initially enjoys tormenting William Ernest, but eventually grows to like him and helps him with his reading. She also helps teach him to defend himself from mean bullies.
  • Ms. Ellis is Gilly's social worker. She has known Gilly for some time, and has shuttled her back and forth to various foster homes.
  • Mr. Randolph is Maime Trotter's next-door neighbor. He is a blind, and lives alone in a house with an impressive library of books. Mr. Randolph is good friends with Trotter, and joins her every night for supper. One of Gilly's jobs at Trotter's home is to escort Mr. Randolph to and from his house.
  • Courtney Rutherford Hopkins is Gilly's biological mother. She is a former flower child, has not seen or lived with her daughter for most of her life and couldn't or didn't do anything about it, although she does send Gilly an occasional postcard. Gilly's most prized possession is an old photograph of her mother which has been inscribed to her.
  • Nonnie Hopkins is Gilly's maternal grandmother and Courtney's mother. She is not aware of Gilly's existence until Courtney writes to her, asking her to assume custody. Her other child, Chadwell, died while serving in the Vietnam War.
  • Agnes Stokes is a girl at Gilly's school. She comes from a troubled background herself, having been abandoned by both of her parents, and lives with her grandmother. She hangs around Gilly and tries to win her friendship. Gilly dislikes her, but uses her to help steal Mr. Randolph's money.
  • Miss Barbara Harris is Gilly's sixth-grade teacher. Initially Gilly has a very difficult time interacting with her. Eventually, she learns to like Miss Harris and begins to do well in school. After she moves to Virginia, Gilly remains in contact with Miss Harris, writing to her to discuss the Lord of the Rings books. Miss Harris says that herself and Gilly are very much alike, because of their angry nature.
  • "Mr. Melvin Trotter" is Maime's late husband.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Gilly Hopkins has won several major accolades, including the 1979 National Book Award in category Children's Literature,[1] a 1979 Christopher Award, the 1979 Jane Addams Award and a 1979 Newbery Honor. It has additionally won several state awards across the United States, including the 1981 Georgia Children's Books: 1966-1978.

Film adaptation[edit]

On February 8, 2013, it was announced that Stephen Herek would direct an adaption of the book, with Kathy Bates and Danny Glover set to star in the film.[2] On February 6, 2014, Sophie Nélisse, Glenn Close and Octavia Spencer joined the cast of the film.[3] On May 9, 2014, Julia Stiles and Bill Cobbs joined the cast of the film.[4] Principal photography began on April 9, 2014, and ended on June 15, 2014.[5][6]