Julia Gillian (and the Art of Knowing)

This realistic book by Alison McGhee is published by Scholastic Press and written for kids ages 9 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Plot Summary

Nine-year-old Julia Gillian's best friend is Bigfoot, her Saint Bernard. The two often go for walks around her neighborhood while Julia's parents study for their summer classes. Julia likes to keep a list of her accomplishments, but she hasn't been able to finish reading a book about a boy and his aging dog because she is afraid it will have an unhappy ending. Enzo, Julia's neighbor and baby-sitter, helps her conquer her fear, and Julia finishes the book.

Christian Beliefs


Authority Roles

Julia's parents are not always attentive because they are preoccupied with their schoolwork, and Julia is allowed to explore their nine-square-block neighborhood on her own. When Julia's mother and father realize Julia is feeling overlooked, they apologize for their actions and make plans to spend more time with her. Enzo is a perceptive, as well as consistent, figure in Julia's life, and she provides Julia with practical advice when Julia needs help.

Other Belief Systems

Julia's family dines at a Vietnamese restaurant that has an altar with a Buddha figurine on it.

Profanity/Graphic Violence






Discussion Topics

If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:

  • Why does Julia lie to the little girl who is afraid to go to kindergarten?
    Are there times when it's OK to not tell the truth, and if so, why?

  • Why do you think Julia likes wearing masks?
    When you're worried or scared of something, what comforts you or helps you to feel brave?

  • How does the green-covered book end?
    How does Julia feel about the ending?

  • How do Julia's parents react when she intentionally disobeys one of their rules in order to get their attention?
    What could she have done instead of being disobedient?

  • What are you afraid of?
    Who can you talk to about your fears?

The illustrations of Julia's masks include a ghost and a vampire.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

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