Tuesday, February 8, 2011

3. The Giver - Choices

"But I’ve never been a writer of fairy tales. And if I’ve learned anything through that river of memories, it is that we can’t live in a walled world, in an “only us, only now” world where we are all the same and feel safe. We would have to sacrifice too much. The richness of color and diversity would disappear feelings for other humans would no longer be necessary. Choices would be obsolete."
-From Lois Lowry's Newbery Acceptance Speech

The Giver is the kind of book that I actually read as a kid, as a slightly older kid and as an adult, where the level of admiration for the book did not once diminish. The thing is, The Giver is clearly a kid book. Simplistically written and plotted, it's meant for a child reader. This does not mean, however, that adult readers cannot appreciate and enjoy it.

The Giver is not the first in its genre. In a sense, the dystopia it presents is fairly tame (when compared to some of the more recent, overwrought examples...), but starkly important when one realizes that the matter of choice, of individualism and free thought are all ideas that we - and the generations after us - will need to maintain. It's a story about growing up, about a world that at first seems almost identical to our own and gradually shifts as the reader realizes the differences.

This is dystopian literature in the true sense of the word - to almost every member of Jonas' society it is a utopia. To Jonas and The Giver it isn't. It's a book that inspires thought, continues to speak to readers across the generations, and one that deserves its status as one of the greatest works of children's fiction (or science fiction, or dystopian fiction...) to have been published.
"The man that I named The Giver passed along to the boy knowledge, history, memories, color, pain, laughter, love, and truth. Every time you place a book in the hands of a child, you do the same thing.

It is very risky.

But each time a child opens a book, he pushes open the gate that separates him from Elsewhere. It gives him choices. It gives him freedom.
Those are magnificent, wonderfully unsafe things."
-From Lois Lowry's Newbery Acceptance Speech


  1. My daughter was assigned this book in school and was very disturbed by it...at the time, I thought she was too young, although I can't remember now what grade she was in (I want to say fourth, but I'm not sure). I find it interesting that you read the book at three stages in your life, and had the same positive experience each time.

  2. I think I may have been too young to grasp what was actually going on when I read the Giver, but Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue was very memorable for me, and led me to read more dystopian literature as a young adult.

  3. I first read The Giver as an adult, but I was blown away. The book is excellent and I have gifted it many times since first reading it. I do wonder what the "best" age is to be introduced. I do not doubt that fourth grade could be too soon, depending on the child. I know I often waited with my nephews and nieces until they were a little older.

    I have not gone on to finish the trilogy, but I think I will now. Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. I actually don't recommend the sequels all that much. Gathering Blue is a pleasant (but very different) book, while Messenger was one of the worst attempts at a sequel I've ever read. It goes against a lot of what Lowry says in her excellent speech and seemed only to ride the successes of the previous books.

    In general, I've never had that Lowry magic return except for the other award-winner Number the Stars, which is a very different kind of excellent - and not at all to be included in this sci-fi literature list. I don't dissuade anyone from reading Gathering Blue, but any reader with even a shred of appreciation for the quality of The Giver should avoid Messenger at all costs.

  5. Thank you for that headsup. That is valuable info. I will then revisit The Giver and read Number the Stars (which I gave to my daughter but have yet not read).


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