Monday, October 22, 2018

The Giver Quartet

The Giver Quarter, Lois Lowry

This quartet of books by Lois Lowry has provided some interesting reading of late for Mr 15 and me.

The Giver

In a seemingly perfect and ordered community, Jonas looks forward to the rite of passage when he turns 12 and is assigned his job; he could be a Nurturer of young children like his father, perhaps someone in the Department of Justice like his mother, or any number of roles assigned including Food Distributor, Mail Deliverer, Instructor or Laborer. In Jonas’ world there is no choice, all decisions are made for you. Couples are assigned to each other, children are produced by birth mothers and each family unit is given one boy and one girl. Those who don’t fit into the community are released, which is a celebration at the end of someone’s life, but a punishment to anyone else who doesn’t fit in properly.

Feelings and dreams must be openly shared, mistakes are apologised for quickly, and advice is often given, but there is little ability to change anything. The rules are the rules and the community keeps them rigidly.

Jonas is given a job he has never heard of, he is selected to be the new Receiver of Memory, and so begins training with an elderly man called The Giver. He is slowly given access to memories, providing an understanding of concepts long forgotten in a world of same perfection (colour, suffering, variety) and learns to feel real pain and joy for the first time. But with such understanding comes knowledge of what his community is missing out on, and what they have become. Jonas must decide whether to accept the status quo or fight for what he thinks is right.

Gathering Blue

Kira, lame and recently orphaned is worried about her future. In a village where no one is valued and only the strong survive, she is aware that she may end up left on The Field to die like other weak ones. But strangely, the leaders of the community take her in, give her comforts of food and running water that she has never known and help her to develop her talent for sewing, so that she can repair the Singer’s robe, which contains illustrations of the entire of the community’s history. There she meets Thomas, who is to be the new carver of the Singer’s staff and they discover a tiny child also kept nearby, Jo, destined to be the new singer. Like The Giver, Lowry has imagined a community with little to no love or compassion between people and where almost all adult figures end up being more corrupt than originally thought. It’s a creative yet depressing dystopian read, but should intrigue young readers as they grapple with different ways a community could look.

The Messenger

It is six years since both The Giver and Gathering Blue and Jonas is now is Leader of the community where Seer (Kira’s father) and her friend (Mattie) now live. The community has always welcomed newcomers and those who have fled or been rejected from their own communities; it is a loving and caring place. But things are changing, people are becoming more selfish and more aware of the cost of having a regular influx of those who need help. There are murmurs of stopping new people coming and the Forest surrounding is becoming malevolent and unwelcoming. This one is a little odder and harder to get your head around, as people start to trade key traits of their character for things that they want; but it seems to be considering what it is that drives a community and their values.


The final instalment starts with Claire, who has been designated with the low status job of Birthmother in the community we first learnt about in The Giver. However, something goes wrong in her first product delivery, and while she produces a healthy infant (who she is not allowed to see or know), her own body is damaged in the process. Unable to continue to with her job she is relocated to work elsewhere. Yet, stirrings in Claire reveal a great sense of loss and wonder about what happened to her child. Investigations help her to find the child, number Thirty-six, who we discover is one of the children at the centre of The Giver. It’s an insightful look into the same community from a different perspective. Claire escapes and then trains for years to find the treacherous way out to go in search of her child, but what is she willing to give up to do so?

Of all of these books, numbers 1 and 4 were my favourites, yet all raised interesting questions about communities, the good and evil that drives them and the people within them. These are thought provoking books that should grab the attention and hopefully expand the minds of kids aged 11/12 and up.

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