Paterson's bright eleven-year-old has a lot in common with: other foster children we've met in fiction: sulky, surface-tough, perversely set on being "hard to manage," determined after several rejections never to accept an overture, and still cherishing the fantasy that her real mother will come to her rescue. But Gilly's new foster mother, Maime Trotter--a semi-literate, Bible-reading hippopotamus of a woman--is hard to rile, and her new teacher is a study in cool. Mrs. Trotter even takes her back after Gilly, planning secretly to join her real mother in California, steals money for a bus ticket. Then a letter claiming mistreatment that Gilly had sent to her mother backfires ironically and it's her unglamorous grandmother (previously unaware of Gilly's existence) who comes for her, just as Gilly has begun to feel a part of Mrs. Trotter's loving de facto family. Meeting the long-idealized real mother at last is the worst blow of all, but by then Trotter's effect on Gilly is hearteningly evident--not only in the little girl's unprompted "I love you Trotter" on the telephone, but also in her considerate self-restraint as her well-meaning Grandmother bugs her with nervous chatter. Without a hint of the prevailing maudlin realism, Paterson takes up a common "problem" situation and makes it genuinely moving, frequently funny, and sparkling with memorable encounters.