Monday, October 19, 2009

The Giver by Lois Lowry

How many years have I known about The Giver? Why haven't I read it before this? Students who have read it always say what a good book it is. It's just one of those things, I think, kind of what my sister calls such things: "It is what it is."

I take my lunch  most days and eat in the library where I work. Twenty minutes of quiet time. I always take whatever book I am  currently reading. One day I forgot.  No way am I going to just sit there, so, aha, what book catches my eye? It's time I say.

The Giver by Lois Lowry won the Newbery Award in 1994. That means it was voted Best Book in older children's literature for that year. Devil's Advocate that I am, I always want to know what books were in contention, the Honor Books. They are Crazy Lady by Jane Leslie Conly, Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery by , and Dragon's Gate by Laurence Yep, all worthy choices.

So, The Giver. Set in a nameless community in an unidentified future, the story is about a utopian society or seemingly, depending on whose opinion is being solicited. No hunger, no domestic violence, no deformities or disabilities, no painful and lonely old age, really, basically no worries. To accompany those realities, no color, no variations, no differences, no choices. Ah, this utopia begins to look dystopian. Yes? 

No, of course not, why would you question? Choices, colors, differences have been removed. How can one question if one has no frame of reference? That's where the character of The Giver comes in. In this society children go through a naming ceremony when they reach the age of twelve. The main character, Jonas, has no idea what his future will hold. He has no particular interest in any particular field.

During the ceremony Jonas is skipped over, only to be given his future at the very last. Receiver. Keeper of the community's Memory. Jonas will be the next Receiver, an assignment held with such reverence and awe that Jonas can hardly fathom that he is the one to be trained by the old Receiver, who will now become The Giver. Therein lies the rub.

The Receiver is privy to all that has been erased from community memory: color, smells, bird twitter, tastes, things now controlled and wiped out of existence, such as snow, and sunshine, and forests. Things that make life interesting, but certainly unknowable. Things unpredictable. Love. Family. Yes, certainly, Jonas has a family of two parental units well-chosen for compatibility, one annoying sister (some things don't change), and a temporary baby.

Jonas's dad is a Caregiver, meaning he takes care of babies. This particular baby shows signs of not adjusting--he cries when it's time to sleep, so Dad brings him home to socialize him. If this doesn't work, Dad will be required to "release" this baby. During Jonas's training, during the transfer of memory from the old Receiver, now called The Giver, to the young Receiver, Jonas begins to learn differences. Jonas in the belly of the whale.

And a plan is formulated. There is a sequel.

Newbery, yep, definitely.

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A favorite souvenir

A favorite souvenir
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Books on my very ambitious TBR list (*denotes read)

  • *Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox
  • The Odd Women by George Gissing
  • The Zen of Fish by Trevor Corson
  • How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell
  • The Cod Tale by Mark Kurlansky
  • In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
  • *Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
  • Dag Hammarskjold by Elizabeth Rider Montgomery
  • The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet by Rabbi Michael L. Munk
  • Children of Strangers by Lyle Saxon
  • Spiritual Writings by Flannery O'Connor
  • Nightmares and Visions: Flannery O'Connor and the Catholic Grotesque by Gilbert H. Muller
  • The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor
  • Flannery O'Connor's South by Robert Coles
  • Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
  • Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey
  • *Vincent de Paul by Margaret Ann Hubbard
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
  • A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  • The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel
  • Readicide by Kelly Gallagher
  • *Ruined by Paula Morris
  • Say You're Not One of Them by Uwem Akpan
  • Wandering Star by J.M.G. Le Clezio
  • Silence by Shusaku Endo
  • *The Assault by Harry Mulisch
  • Kari's Saga by Robert Jansson
  • *The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal
  • Western Skies by Joseph Conrad
  • *The Giver by Lois Lowery
  • *Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski

School Library Journal - NeverEndingSearch


A semester course in one book about the Soviet Union. Click on image for my review.