Title: The Giver Author: Lois Lowry Illustrator: N/a
Publisher: New York; Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers
Genre: Modern Fantasy Level: Upper Number of pages: 180 Pub. Date: 1993
Jonah is a young boy about turn man. He lives in the community, a dystopian society that gives roles to everybody. Nobody feels emotions and everything is covered in sameness. Jonah doesn’t think anything strange about how the community runs until his twelfth birthday when he is selected to be the receiver of memories. Then he meets the Giver who shares with him all the beauty and horrors that the world has experienced. It is then that he learns that his society doesn’t run quite as wonderfully as he thought. In order to save the life a young boy, Gabe he plans to escape for the community and head into otherness.
This is a wonderful example of quality modern fantasy literature. This book is a science fiction dystopian story. It creates a totally knew setting that is believable to the audience. These stories are fantasy based on the ability of the giver to transfer memories but the way it is written makes it seem like it could actually be possible.
The giver was awesome. Jonah is a relatable character who understands what it’s like to go through changes in life. At the same time the community has a creepy kind of control over anything. This leaves the reader gobbling up the story. The ending of this story also leaves the reader wanting more. Thank goodness that Gathering Blue is around to help with that.
Before: Have students discuss difference in society and what makes them so special.
Title: Gathering Blue Author: Lois Lowry Illustrator: n/a
Publisher: New York; Walter Lorraine Books
Genre: Modern Fantasy Level: Upper Number of pages: 215 Pub. Date: 2000
This is the second book in The Giver Series. This book follows the story of Kira a young girl in a poor run down society with a twisted leg. Kira is the only crippled individual in her society and after her mother’s death she worries that she will be put to death. However, Kira has a gift, she is a very talented seamstress and is given a job within the government repairing the story robe of her people. She is chosen to help build the future. Kira’s young friend Matty brings her father, who she thought was dead, to her and tells her of a society of outcasts that exists where she could go. Kira learns that her town hasn’t been telling her the truth but she decides that she will stay there anyway hoping to make life there better. She promises that someday she will join her father in her society.
Like The Giver this book is a strong piece of modern fantasy. This book again creates a very realistic setting that is easy for the reader to imagine. The society Kira lives in seems similar to many poor areas around the world. The fantasy portion of this book is Kira’s magical power or “gift” with the needle and thread. Again this is a science fiction dystopian story.
I enjoyed this story but I found The Giver more interesting. I think my biggest problem with this book is that even though the society is fictional I found it easier to relate it to real life. That’s kind of scary considering how messed up this community was. Also I was surprised that Kira decided to stay in the society that had treated her so badly. This leaves a wonderful cliff hanger for Messanger.
During: Have students try to stich a scene from the story or draw a picture that looks like stitching of a scene form the story.
Title: The Messenger Author: Lois Lowry Illustrator: n/a
Publisher: New York; Walter Lorraine Books
Genre: Modern Fantasy Level: Upper Number of pages: 169 Pub. Date: 2004
This follows the story of Matty from Gathering Blue after he leaves his old community. It is set six years after the end of Gathering Blue. Matty lives in the new society with Kira’s father helping to take care of him. The leader of this new community is Jonah from The Giver. Matty as a messenger between the different communities and is one of the few brave enough to journey into the forest. When the community decides to shut their gates, Jonah sends Matty on a mission to tell all the surrounding towns and get Kira. Unfortunately, the forest doesn’t want to let Matty through and the two character struggle to make it out alive. Sadly Matty must sacrifice himself to save all that he loves.
This was the shortest of the series but it packs the biggest punch. In just 169 pages the readers fall in love with and loose Matty as a main character. Just like the other stories this book is set in a realistic place, however, unlike the others the setting of the book in itself has some magic. Furthermore, unlike the other books, the main character doesn’t overcome his obstacle.
This was the best of the series for me. Matty is my favorite character from this series. I think he was always good even though he struggled more than the others main characters. Matty has more reasons than any to become evil yet he sacrifices himself to save everything he has grown up with. When Matty dies I was skeptical I thought for sure Lowry was tricking her readers, it was very upsetting for me to have my favorite character die.
During: Assign students roles in the classroom society, that they will do well and have them each do only this job during the time it takes to read the book. Discuss successful they think this went.
Title: Son Author: Lois Lowry Illustrator: n/a
Publisher: Boston; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Modern Fantasy Level: Upper Number of pages: 393 Pub. Date: 2012
This book jumps back to the community shown in The Giver, to a young birthmother named Claire. She was chosen for this job but something goes wrong in the birth and Claire is soon given a new job at the fish hatchery. But Claire can’t forget the son she gave birth to. After finding him at the nurturing center, it is all Claire can think about. She befriends the man caring for him and finds out that he is not doing well and that he has been living at home with the man and his children. The reader than finds out that this man’s son is Jonah and the baby Gabe. When Jonah steals Gabe, Claire goes into a frenzy and boards a cargo ship. In a rough storm she is thrown from the ship and the water takes her memory. She is pulled on to a beach into a society that doesn’t have the sameness Claire grew up with. In this society she falls in love with a man named Einar, but she must leave him to find her son. Once she escapes from the new community, Claire must give up her youth to the Trademaster in order to find her son. Here the story changes points of view to Gabe, now a young man living in the community introduced to the reader in Messenger. Here Gabe is trying to escape and go back to community he and Jonah came from to find his mother. Gabe and his wife Kira try to explain to him that he won’t find what he’s looking for. Claire has been living in the community for some time and is near death, she goes to Jonah explaining her fate to him. Jonah divulges this information to Gabe who then takes on the Trademaster, defeating him and saving his mother.
The final to this series covers a lot of settings in one short chapter book. All of these settings are very realistic particularly the one in the middle portion of the story. This place is very similar to a colonial one. All of these things make the story seem possible. The Trademaster is a huge magical power in the story but he seems real because he is evil to the core. Overall this story does a good job at convincing the reader that the story could be real.
This book was a wonderful conclusion to the series. By having Claire make a journey that covers the time of all three previous books, it helps to tie all of the stories together. Also unlike the other stories this book ended in a way that doesn’t leave the reader needing to know about another character to feel complete. If I could change one thing about this book, I would make it so that Claire and Einar could be together. It seems sad to me that they fell in love and nothing would ever come of it. Also, Claire was restored at the death of the Trademaster so I wonder if Einar was as well. Even if he was he would never find Claire. The ending to this book ends on the perfect bittersweet note to compliment the rest of the series and also to talk about the sacrifice made by all the characters.
After: Have students make a chart connecting all four stories in the series.