100 Chapter Books Project: The Great Gilly Hopkins

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I’m having a lot of trouble deciding what to say about my latest Top 100 Chapter Books list read, The Great Gilly Hopkins (1978) by Katherine Paterson, because I have had so many thoughts about it since I finished listening to the story about a week ago. I went back to Betsy’s post about the book and it did help me understand a bit of where the story came from.

What it’s about: Gilly, real name Galadriel Hopkins, was abandoned by her mother to the foster system when she was a baby. She has been through a string of foster homes in her eleven years, all with faults, some worse than others. The latest one is with a widow named Trotter and a foster boy named William Ernest. With all of the emotional damage Gilly has collected over the years, will she be able to open her heart when she is finally placed with good people?

Age level: Grades 5-8

Best part: The change in Gilly’s views on African-Americans and Trotter and William Ernest through the book and the incorporation of a Wordsworth poem into the story.

Worst part: Gilly’s horrid words (and the author’s) about Trotter’s weight, her words about William Ernest (repeatedly calling him a retard), and her use of the “n” word (I assume it was originally written in the book — the audiobook just had a blank pause where it would have been and I would guess it has been taken out in later editions). Also, her stealing from a blind neighbor, her birth mother’s actions, and Trotter’s final words about happiness. Even at the end, I never really came to like Gilly either — which is a problem.

Verdict: Borrow/Skip

Okay. So, this is the fourth book that I’ve given a “skip” in the 70+ I’ve read. Two were by Judy Blume and were written in the early 1970s and two were by Katherine Paterson and were written in the late 70s. I’m conceding defeat as far as these authors go. I would have given this a full on skip if it wasn’t for the fact that it was so honest about what it must feel like to be a foster kid. And, in fact, the book was written after Paterson’s own experience as a foster parent and that authenticity comes through.

There is a movie version that is being released this month with Kathy Bates as Trotter. I’m not sure if it’s being done as a period piece because, honestly, you would have to take out much of Gilly’s racism because it is frankly unacceptable these days and her punishments for the things she does (like mocking her African-American teacher’s looks in a homemade greeting card) would be far more severe. Also, the fat-shaming of Trotter is annoying and unacceptable. Not only does Gilly think of her as a hippopotamus but one of the scenes is written around a flu-weakened Trotter falling on top of Gilly and squishing her. I would only hope that this would be taken out of the story as well because it’s awful. And her treatment of the gentle but slow William Ernest makes me want to vomit in anger. Also, the way she finally bonds with him is to teach him to fight. Blech. I just loathed so much of this story. It’s a product of a decade that wasn’t one of America’s finest.

My next post will be a couple of days early because of BBAW but luckily Flipped is a really short (and hopefully fun) book — although it’s a YA romance so I’m guessing that it probably doesn’t even belong on a middle grade chapter book list. Sigh. Okay, now I’m REALLY looking forward to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!

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Schedule – February through April
February 13 – #92 Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen (2001)
February 28 – #61 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (1964)
March 15 – #40 Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli (1990)
March 31 – #24 Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary (1968)
April 15 – #69 The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan (2006)
April 30 – Spring Break

Book Blogger Appreciation Week Sign Up!

Welcome back, friends! Now you can officially sign up to participate in Book Blogger Appreciation Week (#BBAW)! Several of you have asked to know more about this event and what it entails, so let’s chat about it!

This is a week-long event offering you daily prompts that you can dip it in and out of at will. You will be able to link your daily posts here and explore new-to-you bloggers and appreciate the ones you already know. Here are the daily topics for this year’s Book Blooger Appreciation Week!

Day 1 Introduce yourself by telling us about five books that represent you as a person or your interests/lifestyle.
Day 2 Interview Day! If you choose to be part of the interviews (in the form down below), you’ll be assigned a fellow blogger to chat with and post about!
Day 3 What have you read and loved because of a fellow blogger?
Day 4 How do you stay connected to the community? Examples: social media, regular commenting, participation in blog events, etc. Tell us your faves!
Day 5 One of the unfortunate side effects of reading and blogging like rockstars seems to be a tendency toward burnout. How do you keep things fresh on your blog and in your reading?

We will also schedule one or two Twitter parties. Check back here or on Twitter for updates about those times and dates. We will also be resurrecting the BBAW Twitter account. You can follow us right here!

100 Chapter Books Project: Winnie the Pooh

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Though it is for a younger audience than almost all of the other books on the Top 100 Chapter Books list, Winnie the Pooh (1926) by A.A. Milne nevertheless has chapters and is a perennial favorite so here it is at number 26.

What it’s about: A silly old bear and his boy have adventures in the Hundred Acre Woods with their friends Piglet, Rabbit, Eeyore, Owl, Kanga, and Roo.

Age level: Grades 3+

Best part: The familiarity of these stories is lovely and makes me happy.

Worst part: The narrator sometimes interferes with the stories and takes a bit of the magic out of them.

Verdict: Buy

I felt like I had read this story a million times but, in fact, it turns out that I’ve mostly been watching the Disney versions of the Pooh tales. There are some parts that are better in one than the other and vice versa. I think kids will love the slightly happier Eeyore in the book but probably will like the sweeter Piglet of the shows. Also, the Disney dollars are going to keep this story alive for many more years to come.

I feel like I’m in the home stretch of this project now with just 28 books to go. I’ll finish up a year from April so, if you’re getting tired of seeing chapter book reviews, you just have to put up with them for 16 more months (::wink::)! I have quite a few books coming up that I’ve never read and probably never intended to read so if you have something nice to say about a book you see below, feel free to comment on it!

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Schedule – January through April
January 31 – #63 The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson (1978)
February 15 – #92 Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen (2001)
February 28 – #61 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (1964)
March 15 – #40 Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli (1990)
March 31 – #24 Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary (1968)
April 15 – #69 The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan (2006)
April 30 – Spring Break