Ellen Foster

  • About the Author-Kaye Gibbons

    The story of Ellen Foster is semiautobiographical story about Kaye Gibbons.

    Similarities between the author Kaye Gibbons and the character of Ellen Foster

    Grew up in the Southern United States
    Experienced Discrimination and Prejudice
    Mothers committed suicide
    Alcoholic Abusive Fathers
    Passed around to relatives
    Foster care system

    Some Interesting Facts about Kaye Gibbons

    Kaye Gibbons has been diagnosed with a mential illness, bi-polar disorder.

    Kaye Gibbons has been married and divorced two times.

    She has 3 adult children

    She has been arrested for abusing prescription drugs and stealing prescription drug order forms to obtain pain killers.

    Ellen  Foster A  Modern  Day Cinderella Story

    Cinderella-young orphan girl who must take care of herself
    Ellen-also a young orphan girl who must take car of herself

    Cinderella-Must depend on mean, bitter relatives who resent her (stepmother and step-sisters)
    Ellen-Must depend on mean, bitter relatives who resent her (mama's mama and her aunts)

    Cinderella-has a Wicked Step-mother
    Ellen-has Wicked Grandmother

    Cinderella-is a servant in her own house
    Ellen-a slave worker in the fields of her grandmother's farm

    Cinderella-step-sisters constantly fight
    Ellen-aunts are constantly fighting

    Cinderella-Stepsisters mock and destroy her ballgown
    Ellen-Aunt and cousin Dora mock Ellen's handmade Christmas gift (painting of cats)

    Cinderella-a beautiful ballgown transforms Cinderella and she meets her prince who saves her and she lives "happily ever after"
    Ellen-a beautiful blue dress with a lace collar transforms Ellen and she meets her foster mother who saves Ellen and she "lives happily ever after


    Comparing To Kill a Mockingbird to Ellen Foster


    Major Difference in the Stories


    • Scout Finch, the narrator of To Kill a Mockingbird, comes from a loving home. Her father, Atticus Finch, is one of the most beloved and respected characters in literature.


    • Scout does not experience any type of abuse in To Kill a Mockingbird


    • Scout has a loving and supportive relationship with a sibling, her brother, Jem.




    • Both books are semi-autobiographical
    • Both stories are set in the South
    • Both stories deal with discrimination
    • Narrators, Ellen and Scout, are young girls
    • Narrators are precocious-wise beyond their years
    • Narrators are intelligent love to read and write
    • Narrators experience the death of their mothers
    • Both stories have a mean, cruel, hateful older woman

             Mama’s mama in Ellen Foster

             Mrs. DuBoise in To Kill a Mockingbird

    • Both stories have a kind mother figure

             New Mama and Julia, the art teacher in Ellen Foster

             Calpurnia and Miss Maudie Atkinson in To Kill a Mockingbird

    • Both stories have a mean Aunt

             Aunt Betsey and Aunt Nadine in Ellen Foster

             Aunt Alexandra in To Kill a Mockingbird

    • Both stories have a child character that experiences extreme poverty and prejudice

          Starletta in Ellen Foster

          Walter Cunningham in To Kill a Mockingbird


    Kaye Gibbons and Harper Lee

    • both grew up in the Southern United States
    • both experienced prejudice, discrimination against Black Americans
    • both authors grew up without a mother






    Prologue-an introduction to a play or story, often the prologue will tell the reader the end of the story. We read the play or story to understand the ending.

    In the prologue to Ellen Foster  the readers learn that:

       Ellen wanted to kill her father
       Her parents are both dead
       Ellen lives in a foster home

    We read the  book to find out

       why Ellen wanted to kill her father
       How her parents died
       Why she is happy to be living in a foster home

    Dedication-The book is dedicated to Kaye Gibbons' family

    Theme-Self-Reliance, Even as a young girl Ellen can depend on only herself for food, shelter and love. 

    Chapter 1
    inner dialogue, the story shifts back and forth from the present to the past
    Ellen's homelife
    abusive, alcoholic, lying father
    mother ill and home from the hospital
    Ellen living in a foster home that is neat, clean, she gets fed and is proud to go to school 

    Chapter 2
    Ellen's mother has overdosed on heart meds
    Ellen lays down with her mother in bed until she stops breathing
    Whose fault is it that mother is dead?

    Ellen loves to read classic books

    Ellen is getting ready for her mother's funeral
    Ellen despises her father, she thinks he is a phony

    Chapter 3
    Present Day-Ellen gets up early to be the first one to ride the pony

    Flashback to Funeral Day
    Ellen wears hand-me-down clothes
    Ellen's father worries that she will tell somone how the mother died
    A funeral director is paid to care
    Aunt Nadine-Ellen hates her, a phony, sells food slicers from home
    Cousin Dora-same age as Ellen/wets her pants 2x a day, spoiled

    Chapter 4
    Funeral-Ellen doesn't look or watch her mom in the coffin

    Ellen's grandmother (Mama's mama) hates the father, calls him "trash" and "nigger"
    Grandmother is not kind, slightly crazy and violent

    Chapter 5
    Flashback-After the funeral
    Ellen's father disappears for 2 days , drinking

    Ellen is home alone, eats food from the funeralm wears her mother's clotes under her own

    Back to School
    Teacher (another phony) wants to know how her mother died because she is nosey. Ellen refuses to talk. Teacher was kind in the past.

       is negligent, doesn't pay the bills or feed Ellen
       his brothers get the father to sign over the farm to them
       leave $ in the mailbox
    Ellen-self reliant
       uses the $ to pay the bills
       lives off of frozen TV dinners
       buys fish and cooks for herself
       plays make believe with a family she has cut-out from a catalogl

    Chapter 6
    Flashback-Christmas Day
    Ellen visits Starletta's family, very kind and generous people
       Dirt Poor-1 room house, filthy and smelly
       Parents are pickers/illiterate but live their daughter
    Ellen shows discrimination/prejudice
       won't eat "colored food" and is worried about "colored germs"

    Father is gone on Christmas Day
       Ellen home alone watching TV
       Mama's mama removes all of her mother's c lothes--donates them to "real niggers"

    Ellen very intelligent--advanced for her age
       loves to read
       even reads the encyclopedia

    Present Day-Foster Home
    5 foster children live there
    Evidence foster mom is good
       washes Ellen's hair

    Flashback-New Years's Eve
    Father comes home with a group of black men
       eat all of Ellen's food
       get drunk
       pass out
       Ellen assaulted by her father, sexual, calls Ellen by her mother's name
       Runs away to Starletta's

    Chapter 7
       Spends New Year's Eve at Starletta's house, offers to pay them $

       Ellen goes home, packs possessions and calls her Aunt Betsey "Can I stay with you?"
          aunt has no children/no husband (selfish)
          Ellen gets to stay 1 weekend and then sent back home

    Ellen survives the summer
    Father continues to abuse Ellen

    School starts--Teachers notice bruises
       Ellen will be taken from her home
       No family to go to
       Only friends are Starletta's family (colored family) not acceptable in the South

    Present Day-Foster Home
    Ellen talks about grocery shopping (a necessity) 
       sounds GLAMOROUS   
       Foster mom never has to put food back
       always has money

    Chapter 8
    Ellen lives the art teacher and her husband
       kooky/artsy Hippies who want to save the World from people like Ellen's father

    MEMORY of mama
       Ellen remembers a day picking beans with her mother
       Realizes she had "only one good season" with her mother

    Ellen's Birthday
       Party-one guest-Starletta
       have cake, go to the movies, present-art supplies
       Starletta-very slow? dumb? possibly handicapped?

    Chapter 9
    Ellen's father comes to the school
       makes a scene and brings $

    Family Court
       Judge gives Ellen back to "her family" 
       "What do you do when the judge talks about the family society's cornerstone but you know yours was never a Roman pillar but is and always has been a crumbly old brick?" (Page 56) 

    Present Day-Foster Home-On Sundays
       family goes to Church
       Eat a big meal together
       Prepare meals for the whole week
       Foster kids must be good in church--get donations/$ from the church

    Chapter 10
    Flashback-Summer spent at Grandmother's house
    Grandmother is WEALTHY, large house with servants
    Ellen sleeps in her mother's old room
       canopy bed and a firplace
       Ellen has nightmares
    Grandmother-Mama's mama
       mean, crazy angry--all 3
       verbally abusive

    Ellen's father dies
       She does not attend funeral
       Uncle come to Grandmother's house to give her flag (Ellen's father served his country in the military)
       Fight with grandmother
       Grandmother holds the deeds to everyone's farms (control)
       Burns the funeral flag

    Grandmother fires all the servants
       gets sick and is bedridden
       Ellen (age 11) takes care of sick grandmother

    Chapter 11
    Ellen tries to figure out why her grandmother is so mean
       Revenge against her father for marrying the mother

    Grandmother pays Ellen's uncle Rudolph to spy on Ellen's father
       he leaves money from the grandmother in the mailbox
       when Ellen runs away, Grandmothe sends less 
       trying to starve Ellen's father to death?
       Father dies of a brain anuerysm

    Grandmother now blames Ellen for her mother's death (age 10)
       plans to make father and Ellen pay for it

    Grandmother dies from the flu

    Chapter 12
    Present Day-Foster Home
    Ellen is happy/grateful
       Life is perfect, like the pictures on a cereal box

    Baby Roger--biological mother is Stella, foster sister, only a 7th grader
       Stella dyes her hair and flirts with boys on the bus

       Ellen sees her at school
       Misses her only "friend"
       regrets feeling superior to Starletta because she is white

    Ellen's perspective on Blacks is changing
       used to be afraid that "Blacks" could kill her 
       realizes it was actually her own white family that was lethal

    Tuesdays meets with social worker/psychologist
       Ellen hates it
       gets a "good hug" from her new mom on Tuesdays

    Foster-Last name
       comes from living with her "FOSTER FAMILY"
       new identity
       starting a new life
       Ellen wants a new name, her old name is "worn out"

    Chapter 13
    Grandmother dies
       Ellen calls funeral home and her aunts who fight

       Ellen's project-decorate mama's mama body with flowers
       Ellen bargains with God--she did right by the grandmother, please let her mother into Heaven
       Refuses to go to the funeral

    Ellen goes to live with Aunt Nadine and Dora
       She does not paln to stay
       Wants to live with the nice lady from church called "The Foster Family"
       Ellen keeps to herself, stays in her room, only eats meals with the family
       Uncle is dead from a stroke

    Ellen gets to go shopping
       buys clothes that are a size larger, so they will last
       all the clothes match
       Ellen buys a special dress for church to get noticed by "Mrs. Foster"

    Present Day
    Ellen plans a sleep-over for Starletta at the foster home
       of course foster mom says yes and makes it special

    Chapter 14