Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson (Children's Literature Novel)

 Paterson, Katherine. The Great Gilly Hopkins. Harper & Row, Publishers. 1978. 1978. (148 pages)
This book chronicles the life of Galadriel (Gilly for short) who has been through several foster homes before ending up in the home of Maime Trotter. At first Gilly is very angry and judgmental toward Maime, her foster brother W.E., her new neighbor Mr. Randolph, and her new teacher Miss Harris. But as her schemes result in unexpected changes, she is surprised to learn how much she grew to love all those people she was pushing away.
The language in this book was somewhat gritty and even racist at times – which is why it was on the banned book list. However, while some of those things may be jarring at first it’s pretty clear that this is the portrait of someone who is hurting. I think there is an opportunity for educators to use Gilly as a universal example to illustrate what it means to be disappointed, self-protective, and someone in pain who lashes out at others. Life is disappointing sometimes. However, this book also illustrates the positive side of life as we see that caring for others makes life better.
The characters in this book are very round and complex. The main character, Gilly, experiences a lot of character change. We see many facets in her true-to-life personality. For anyone who has known a hurting child, this characterization hits home realistically. The themes of disappointment, self-protection, and belonging are all universal to the human experience and would provide great educational value. On a side note, I love that she references Tolkein several times! All in all, I really enjoyed the book and the reminder that hatefulness can mean hurt, and that this is a feature which can change as a result of kindness.

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