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Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Wear to the cover and the edges. Underlined sentences. A name and small note on the first page. Tight binding.
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Ellen Foster Paperback – November 5, 1997

490 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Oprah Book Club® Selection, October 1997: Kaye Gibbons is a writer who brings a short story sensibility to her novels. Rather than take advantage of the novel's longer form to paint her visions in broad, sweeping strokes, Gibbons prefers to concentrate on just one corner of the canvas and only a few colors to produce her small masterpieces. In Gibbons's case, her canvas is the American South and her colors are all the shades of gray.

In Ellen Foster, the title character is an 11-year-old orphan who refers to herself as "old Ellen," an appellation that is disturbingly apt. Ellen is an old woman in a child's body; her frail, unhappy mother dies, her abusive father alternately neglects her and makes advances on her, and she is shuttled from one uncaring relative's home to another before she finally takes matters into her own hands and finds herself a place to belong. There is something almost Dickensian about Ellen's tribulations; like Oliver Twist, David Copperfield or a host of other literary child heroes, Ellen is at the mercy of predatory adults, with only her own wit and courage--and the occasional kindness of others--to help her through. That she does, in fact, survive her childhood and even rise above it is the book's bittersweet victory.

From Publishers Weekly

The appealing, eponymous, 11-year-old orphan heroine of this Southern-focused debut survives appalling situations until she finds safe harbor in a good foster home. "Some readers will find the recital of Ellen's woes mawkishly sentimental," PW remarked, "but for others it may be a perfect summer read."
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 126 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; 1st edition (May 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375703055
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375703058
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (490 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #852,878 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 58 people found the following review helpful By S. Bishop on June 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
While reading this book, I saw a very strong, clear thinking, determined and self sufficient child. Her motto of doing it her 'own self' reminded me of my independence as a child.
Yet, when I saw the movie, I didn't see an empowered child. I saw a sad story of an abused and abandoned child. I laughed through the book because you couldn't tell Ellen that she wasn't in control. The girl had a plan. Yet the movie left me so choked up that I almost felt bad that I hadn't realized how alone this child was before.
I am glad I read the book first. I think the author intended to show this from Ellen's perspective and not the department of children and family services.
Oft times, people write off childrens' spirit's and strength and turn them into mindless/feelingless being who need their lives to be decided upon by not so informed adults.
Yes, Ellen Foster was a tragic story. But it was also a story of great courage a thinking mind.
It was this book that made me a Kaye Gibbons fan !
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63 of 68 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
Ellen Foster is a work of great magnitude. Kaye Gibbons has a real talent for telling this story through the eyes for poor Ellen Foster. Nothing is said very deliberately, however, the message is received. Ellen's life is a sad twist of one tragedy to the next. This is definitely not a light-hearted Southern novel. It is a gritty, tough read, but it is so well done, it is worthwhile.
You will be unable to put this book down, however difficult it may be to read.
This book definitely deserves your attention, and at the discounted price [it] is selling it for, I would highly recommend it.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Peggy Vincent on June 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
Eleven-year-old Ellen Foster is an orphan, abused and neglected by her parents and finally abandoned (after her mother's death)to a series of cold or uncaring relatives. With courage, wit, and native intelligence, she finds her own path to salvation.
Sound familiar? - Like lots of other comtemporary books about child abuse? Yes, but there's a difference: the understated, matter-of-fact telling of the story that makes this book so special. In Ellen Foster, Gibbons uses her beautiful language, literary acumen, and attention to detail to craft a clean, small spare portrait, a gift to all readers.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Amy Kung on May 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
Ellen Foster is an undeniably captivating book that touches on many issues such as love, acceptance,racial relations, family, and identity. This book is strategically written and will make the reader reflect and ponder matters, even after finishing the reading. I enjoyed reading Ellen Foster immensely and would recommend it to anyone. This book is a coming of age story about a resilient eleven-year-old girl, Ellen Foster. The experiences she engages in are definitely not typical for a girl of her age: her parents and grandmother die in the story, she is poverty stricken, and abused. As a result, Ellen is forced to mature faster. She pays bills, goes grocery shops, and even reads "older" books in school, claiming, "I can hardly tolerate the stories we read for school. Cindy or Lou with the dog or cat." Ellen is also on a constant search for a home and family after her immediate family falls apart. When she finally finds a home with her teacher, she is taken away by the court and sent to live with her Grandmother, a bitter and heartless woman. Ellen's childhood seems to be full of these ups and downs such as this, but she always seems to make the best of the situation. Given the misfortunes in her childhood, her strength and independence really shine through, leaving the reader with hope and inspiration. Ellen Foster is also a book about social tribulations in our society. Set in the time of the civil rights movement, Ellen's character and her identity move with the movement. In the beginning of the novel, it is apparent that her family and society as a whole has an affect on how she views colored people. Even though her best friend, Starletta, is a black girl, Ellen still thinks of her as "dirty.Read more ›
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Cindy on August 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a short but engaging book that can easily be read in one sitting. Ellen Foster, the main character and narrator, is an 11 year old girl who has experienced more death and dysfunction than most people do in a lifetime. Her mother dies, her father is terribly abusive, and the remainder of the story chronicles her jostling from one relative's house to another- until she finally finds a home where she is truly cared for.
Kaye Gibbons writes in choppy, incomplete sentences as one can imagine the grounded and brutually-honest Ellen might speak. The book flashes back from past to present, but Ellen's child-like yet suprisingly mature tone remains the same throughout. She is a strong and lovable character. Her relationship with a "colored" girl Starletta is another high point of the book, and Gibbons manages to hit on the subjects of society's "rules" and racial prejudice without seeming redundant. This book alerted me to not only Ellen's plight but the plight of all children who fall subject to the court, social services, and the foster care system.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Barbara Farr Kelley on June 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
When I first bought this novel, I did not know it was an Oprah pick. I probably would not have bought it if I had known, since I'm not too crazy about the books she chooses. I bought this book because I liked the movie with the same name.
I have never read a book that was entirely monologue. It is entirely from the viewpoint of this little girl and the miseries she suffered at the hands of her mean old daddy. She referred to herself as "old Ellen", and I guess she was, mentally, pretty old for her young age.
There were no quotation marks and dialogue between characters as in all other books I've read, yet it held a sort of charm to me. The author certainly knows how a little girl feels in a situation like Ellen's, and I'm wondering if maybe the author IS Ellen. Of course, I dont' know if this is based on fact, but it sure could be.
She was totally disregarded by almost everyone she was around, with the exception of her poor, sick mother who died. Her daddy was an alcoholic and left her for days on end. If it were not for Ellen's little black friend, she would have had no friends.
She keeps talking about her new mama and how wonderful the woman is, and then goes back in time when things were completely different. Her new mama goes out and buys more food when they run out. Ellen has a pretty room, and she's just in awe of it. She doesn't even care about going out to play right away, just so she can lay around and love her bedroom. In the past, she shared a bed with her mama, and barely had enough to eat because her daddy was too lazy to work. He just drank and drank until he passed out near the toilet, and Ellen would have to go tell him to get himself out of the bathroom because there were other people who needed to go to the bathroom.
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