The Giver

The Giver

Lois Lowry. The Giver. New York, New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1993.

Giver.pngHave you ever imagined what the world would be like if it were perfect? What if a world existed where people had eliminated war, fighting, and violence altogether? In such a world, everyone was fed and no one was homeless. The entire population understood the rules and obeyed them. No one was unhappy, and the society never changed. Everything was perfect. They could continue to live in a Utopian state forever. Or so they thought.

This is the world of The Giver, by Lois Lowry. The protagonist of the story is Jonas, a boy who is unsure of his place in society. At the annual career-giving ceremony he is assigned the most prestigious role in the community, that of Receiver of Memories. When he is told his training will be painful and difficult, the 12 year old is frightened and he questions the decision. His mentor calls himself the Giver, for it is his duty to pass the memories of the past to a new generation. With the Giver's help Jonas gains new insights about the society that he has never before realized. He must now decide whether to live his life as before, or make a change and hope it is for the better.

The Giver explores many complex issues that can challenge even an adult reader, but presents them in the voice of a young adolescent boy, that students can relate to.

Recommendations for Teachers
The Giver is a great book to start class discussions with students anywhere from 5th grade through middle school and early high school. For younger students the discussion can be about the importance of individuality. Ask them how they would feel if they were assigned a career rather than choosing one. In this book, children become adults at the age of 12. Your students will most likely be around this age. How would they like to be an adult at their age? What makes a person a "grown up" anyway? Older students can get into a discussion about Utopian societies, and their pros and cons. Compare The Giver to other books with a similar message (such as Brave New World) and discuss why characters would allow such a society to begin. Would they allow it to happen in their lives? What freedoms would they be willing to give up in order to have a perfect life?

The themes expressed in The Giver are sometimes criticized as being too mature for elementary students. For instance, the book lightly explores the onset of sexual awareness. While not every fifth grader is going to understand that aspect of the novel, it is important for this issue to be discussed in older classrooms. Like Jonas, students are going through a time of change as well. It can be beneficial to open up discussion for students to understand such "stirrings" are normal.

Lois Lowry

external image Lois%20Lowry.jpg

Lois Lowry was in her mind lucky to be the middle child of three. She had an older sister named Helena who was much like her mother. Her younger brother spent most of his time with their father. This left Lois in the middle and alone, exactly where she wanted to be.

Her father was a military man and this led her to a life on the move. She was born in Hawaii but her father's career took them to places such as New York and Tokyo. Later she moved back to New York where she went to high school. Not too far away was Brown University in Rhode Island where she spent her college years. During college, she got married at the age of 19. Her husband was a naval officer, a military man like her father. On the move she went again, to places such as California, Connecticut, Florida, and then back to Massachusetts. It was there that her husband went into law school at Harvard. At this point she already had 4 kids, two daughters and two sons, all under the age of 5. Finally settling down, she decided to go back to school at the University of Southern Maine. She got her degree, made it through graduate school, and then began her career of professional writing.

Her marriage ended in 1977. She moved back to Cambridge, Massachusetts where she continued to live. Here she began writing her books which she said all end up having basically the same focus. Lowry's books focus primarily on the importance of human connections. Focusing on human connections she wrote her first book, A Summer to Die. Later she wrote a trilogy containing the books, The Giver, Gathering Blue, and the last of the trilogy Messenger. Her son's tragic death in the cockpit of a warplane led her to start thinking about how she could end conflict in the world. Now as a Grandmother she continues to write hoping to "convey my passionate awareness that we live intertwined on this planet and that our future depends upon our caring more, and doing more, for one another." (Lowry)

Preview for The Giver
In this Mp3 you will find a preview for The Giver. Download Mp3

Interview with Lois Lowry

Hannah Spicijaric, a young reporter, interviews Lois Lowry about her new book "The Willoughbys." This down to earth interview will give an idea of the author's inspirations and where she comes up with ideas for such great books. Some questions include:
  • Did you always intend to write books for kids?
  • How long did it take you to write the Willoughbys?
  • What lessons do you hope young readers will learn?
  • Is some literature out dated for kids?
  • Out of all the books written, do you have a favorite?
Watch this 8 minute YouTube video by Time for these answers and many more.

Additional Resources:
If you are interested in further information about the author, the work, the reception, or how it is being taught:
  • Spark Notes: The Giver - Website resource dedicated to helping others develop a comprehensive understanding of characters, symbols, and plot.
  • Lois Lowry's Website - Here you will the author's official site where you can browse her upcoming events, read her biography, see what she has published recently, and much more!
  • Lowry Updates - Lois Lowry's official blog where you can catch up on recent activities in her life and her thoughts on other literature.
  • A Teacher's Resource - This easy to navigate resource provides vocabulary quizzes, online quizzes, printable quizzes, and activities that are separated down into chapters.
  • Study Guide - An online student guide for assistance in understanding the major themes found in "The Giver."
  • Common Sense Review - A review of the book done by the commonsense review media group.
  • Wikipedia - Just in case you wanted to see what Wiki's thoughts were on Lowry.
  • Gathering Blue - Buy Lois Lowry's second installment in The Giver Trilogy, which deals with many of the same themes as her first installment, but this time focusing on a female protagonist.
  • Messanger - Buy Lois Lowry's third installment in The Giver Trilogy, which ties the other books together by bringing characters from the first two books into this one.
  • New York Times - Elizabeth Spires discusses "Gathering Blue" and "The Giver." Spires calls "The Giver," "an unforgettable, one-of-a-kind book that spoke as much to adults, myself included, as to children."
  • The Washington Post - Valerie Strauss comments on how often "The Giver" is used in classrooms and points out that just because students read through it quickly, does not mean that they comprehend what is written.

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