Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Giver by Lois Lowry (Newberry Medal Winner 1994)

Published in 1993 by Houghton Mifflin
Science Fiction / Fantasy

Lois Lowry's The Giver is one of four books set in the same, or rather similar, futuristic society: The Giver (1993), Gathering Blue (2000), Messenger (2004), and Son (2012). I taught this book on the high school level for twelve years while teaching in Tennessee and highly recommend it for the appropriate age level. Although the book is listed on many middle school reading lists, I believe this book is better suited for high school students because of several themes and motifs presented in the text.
The Giver is written from the first-person point of view of Jonas, an eleven-year-old boy who is the story's protagonist. He lives in a futuristic society whose leaders (The Chief Elder and a Committee of Elders) control every aspect of the citizens' lives. The goal of this society is to make everything equal and fair by eliminating pain, fear, war, hatred, differences, individuality, and choice. "Sameness" is stressed in order to promote peace and tranquility. No competition is allowed because, after all, we wouldn't want to damage anyone's self-esteem. Competition only emphasizes the fact that people do have different talents and abilities, and we definitely wouldn't want to do that. I can only imagine that, in a society like this, everyone would receive a trophy just for "trying" or "showing up." And everyone would make straight A's in school, if grades were given at all. The only time members of this community actually "win" something is when they are assigned their future jobs at the Ceremony of Twelve. Everyone in this community is under camera surveillance from the time they are born until the time they die; Big Brother is definitely watching.
Published in 2000

Published in 2004

The members of this community cannot choose the person they will marry (for marriage partners are assigned), and parents are not allowed to give birth to their own children. Everyone takes a pill to control the "stirrings" that occur during adolescence, and this practice is encouraged by the parents and continues into adulthood. Citizens are assigned jobs, and birth mothers, who never see their birth children, are the means of procreation. When a member of the community is deemed no longer useful, he or she is "released," which is just a euphemism for being "murdered." Citizens are taught they should look forward to being "released," and some believe being "released" just means being sent away, for no one actually knows where "Elsewhere" is.

I can't wait until this movie comes out!
I hope they stay true to the text.
Babies who are deemed unfit to live are also "released." In reality, they are given a shot in the forehead, right between the eyes, which kills them. Anyone in this society who breaks the rules or challenges what is taking place is also "released." Everything in this community is organized so that order is maintained and life is peaceful and serene; however, there is something dark taking place just beneath the surface. Only one person really knows everything that is going on, and that is the Giver, who receives and retains all memories of the past. As the Giver draws near to the end of his life, a Receiver of Memory is chosen to take his place, and that time has come.

Jonas, who is very different from the other members of his community because he has blue eyes and special abilities as a seer, lives with his father, a Nurturer of the new children; his mother, a worker at the Department of Justice; and his seven-year-old sister Lily. He is chosen to become the new Receiver of Memory. As Jonas begins his training and learns the truth about his "peaceful, "just," and "fair" community, he begins to question what is happening, especially when he discovers his father will "release" a newborn named Gabriel he has become attached to. At the climax of the novel, Jonas has to make a decision: Will he allow his father to "release" Gabriel, this small, innocent child who has been taken into his home? Or will he take action to change the outcome?
Published in 2012

This book is a great book for high school students. I have never had a student complain about the book, and I have never had a parent challenge the book because the book was taught at the appropriate age level in Sevier County. Discussions are always lively, and students are engaged.

Lois Lowry's Official Website
Source for Images
Find This Book At Your Library
Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, and Taylor Swift star in the movie.

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