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.