A recent kidlit adaptation completely skipped past me until I discovered it streaming on Netflix a few weeks ago. The 2016 adaptation of Katherine Paterson’s book The Great Gilly Hopkins was released in theaters on October 7, 2016, where it had a limited run, and then released to streaming and DVD that same December.
The Great Gilly Hopkins tells the story of Galadriel “Gilly” Hopkins, an 11-year-old foster child with a mean streak. When we first meet Gilly, she’s headed to a new foster home with a woman called Trotter, whom Gilly immediately detests because of her weight. In fact, she calls her a “fat hippo.” Gilly seems like the unlikeliest and most unlovable of protagonists for a children’s book. Katherine Paterson’s tremendous writing allows readers find commonality with Gilly’s hurt despite her prickly outsides. The book is considered a classic – it ranked 63 in a 2012 SLJ poll of the 100 best Children’s Novels, and won the National Book Award and Newbery Honor the year it was published.
It’s strange for a book with such an impressive pedigree to get an impressively-cast film adaptation and then be released with minimal fanfare. The lack of attention is a shame, because it’s a lovely film. Kathy Bates radiates warmth as Trotter, Octavia Spencer shines as a teacher interested in Gilly, and Sophie Nélisse, so affecting in the adaptation of The Book Thief, wrings a lot of pathos from her initially loathsome main character. Reviews of the movie were mostly positive, with praise from the New York Times and trade publications like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. Most review of the film signaled out the acting for high praise. It’s a good family film, and would also work well for classroom viewing.
Did you purchase the DVD of The Great Gilly Hopkins for your library’s collection? After viewing the movie on Netflix, we bought two!