The Great Gilly Hopkins

13 Jul

This book. Oh This Book. It meant so very much to me in 1978 when I was just a young child in foster care in Maryland. This book. Oh, this book. The parallels were beyond similar yet Gilly Hopkins and I were so incredibly different.

I was mean. I was angry. I was weary at such a young age. I was a fighter. I was bad. A twisted rebel rouser. Brewing. Ticking.

So Gilly Hopkins and I–though I loathed parts of her–were twins in print.

In the same year this book was released and I discovered it, I was sent to my very first foster home and my first group home after my kind gentle social worker removed me with police escort from the evil biological mother’s place. When I look back on this book and read the summary I realize that it was not just written in the very same year I went through similar turmoil, but that just like in my life the story took place in Maryland, of all places. Wow-ah.

All I know is this book was a light in a tunnel. It was a hand being reached out to me as I thrashed in a ditch. To be a kid and come upon a book that speaks to you in such a profound way. Oh! One day as an adult this book just popped into my mind, the details were murky except I remember the girl was just like me yet unlike me and that she was in foster care and she was troubled and that the cover of the book showed a girl blowing a huge bubble gum bubble and that she was a bully and that she didn’t like her foster care surroundings. That’s all I could remember in detail; it was the deep resonation of the book that I couldn’t shake.

Children book writers have the sheer power to save a life. Or two. Or thousands.

It’s like having18 toes and hobbling around in a world of 10 toes, feeling all lonely and different and abandoned, and then strolling into the school library one day and discovering a book about a person with 19 toes and how they survive while presenting their 19 toes to the world. As art.


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