The Great Gilly Hopkins

The Great Gilly Hopkins is a realistic children's novel by Katherine Paterson. It was published by Crowell in 1978 and it won the U.S. National Book Award next year.[2] In 2012 it was ranked number 63 among all-time children's novels in a survey published by School Library Journal – the third of three books by Paterson in the top 100.[3]

The Great Gilly Hopkins
First edition
AuthorKatherine Paterson
CountryUnited States
GenreChildren's novel
PublisherThomas Y. Crowell Co.
Publication date
March 28, 1978
Media typePrint (hardcover and paperback)
Pages148 pp. (first edition)[1]
LC ClassPZ7.P273 Gr[1]

A film adaptation starring Sophie Nélisse as Gilly Hopkins and Kathy Bates as Trotter was released in 2015.[4]

The novel has been translated into Catalan, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, and Swedish,[5][6] and Árpád Göncz’s Hungarian translation has been adapted into a radio play.[7]

Plot summary

Galadriel "Gilly" Hopkins is a mean, 11-year-old brash young girl who is headed for yet 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, whose photograph Gilly secretly treasures. Gilly doesn't like the look of her new foster mom, Trotter, a "fat hippo", and decides she is going to hate her whole life.

Gilly hatches a plan to escape from Trotter and steals the money she needs for it to work. She knows that her mother lives in San Francisco, California 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 immediately comes down to the station to retrieve her. Gilly's grandmother, Nonnie, comes to Trotter's house and tells her that she will take Gilly home. Nonnie was previously unaware that she had a granddaughter. But now Gilly realizes that she really wants to be with Trotter. However, the law says that Gilly must go with Nonnie, so she goes to Nonnie's house.

Then Gilly gets good news: her mother is coming. But when she goes to the airport, Courtney is not the woman in Gilly's photograph: she has become fat, with stringy hair and a lot of other traits Gilly didn't expect like being selfish. 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 has been and that she loves Trotter. The story ends with Gilly on the phone, crying to Trotter to take her back. Trotter, in turn, gently convinces her that her home is with Nonnie. So Gilly realizes that Nonnie's house is her home.


  • 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. Gilly sometimes calls him W.E.
  • 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 Mrs. Trotter's next-door neighbor. He is 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 she and Gilly are very much alike, because of their angry nature.
  • "Mr. Melvin Trotter" is Maime's late husband.

Awards and nominations

Gilly Hopkins has won several major accolades, including the 1979 National Book Award in category Children's Literature,[2] a 1979 Christopher Award, the 1979 Jane Addams Award and a 1979 Newbery Honor. It has also won several U.S. state awards including the 1981 Georgia Children's Books: 1966–1978.

Film adaptation

On February 8, 2013, it was announced that Stephen Herek would direct a film adaptation of the book, with Kathy Bates as Trotter and Danny Glover in major roles.[8] On February 6, 2014, Sophie Nélisse as Gilly Hopkins, Glenn Close and Octavia Spencer joined the cast of the film.[9] On May 9, 2014, Julia Stiles and Bill Cobbs joined the cast of the film.[10] Principal photography began on April 9, 2014, and ended on June 15, 2014.[11][12] The film premiered at the SCHLINGEL International Film Festival October 6, 2015,[4] and was released by Lionsgate Premiere on October 7, 2016.[13]

Stage adaptation

The novel was adapted as a children's stage musical in 1996 and is available for licensing through Samuel French. [14]

Television adaptation

The novel was adapted as a made-for-TV movie was televised January 19, 1981, directed by Jeffrey Hayden and teleplay by Charles Pratt Jr. for CBS Afternoon Playhouse.


  1. The great Gilly Hopkins". LC Online Catalog. Library of Congress ( Retrieved 2015-10-31.
  2. "National Book Awards – 1979". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
  3. "Filmarchiv". Retrieved 2016-01-27.
  4. The Great Gilly Hopkins at WorldCat. Retrieved 2016-04-08.
  5. The Great Gilly Hopkins. Index Translation. Retrieved 2016-04-13.
  6. A nagy Gilly Hopkins at the Hungarian Radio Drama Lexicon. Retrieved 2016-01-15.
  7. NANCY TARTAGLIONE, International Editor. "Berlin: Stephen Herek To Direct Kathy Bates, Danny Glover In 'The Great Gilly Hopkins'". Retrieved 2014-06-17.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  8. Leo Barraclough (2014-02-06). "Glenn Close, Sophie Nelisse, Octavia Spencer Join 'The Great Gilly Hopkins'". Variety. Retrieved 2014-06-17.
  9. Yamato, Jen. "Julia Stiles Joins Movie Adaptation 'The Great Gilly Hopkins'". Retrieved 2014-06-17.
  10. "On The Set For 4/14/14: Kristen Stewart & Jesse Eisenberg's 'American Ultra' Starts ‹ Studio System News". Retrieved 2014-06-17.
  11. "On The Set For 6/16/14: Boxing Drama 'Southpaw' Starts, 'American Ultra' Wraps ‹ Studio System News". Retrieved 2014-06-17.
  12. Wiseman, Andreas (May 14, 2016). "Lionsgate adopts 'The Great Gilly Hopkins' for US". Screen Daily. Retrieved July 26, 2016.
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