Lowry, L. (1993). The Giver. New York: Laurel-Leaf Books.
This book was one of my favorites as a child. I had it read aloud to me. I read it multiple times then. I’ve been assigned to read it once as an adult. I’ve had to reread it twice for some of my students’ projects. I’ve seen the play version that was created. I have The Giver memorized. Seriously. Ask me what went down on page 127. I’ve got an answer.
The scope of Lowry’s writing career is impressive, including historical fiction, realistic fiction, science-fiction and parody. The Giver has always been my personal favorite. The book shares the story of Jonas, who upon turning twelve with all of his classmates is chosen for a special career-path by his community, to receive the memories of lives different from those in the community. Experiences of pain, joy, love, war, death and color.
Jonas soon realizes that the choices made by the community are not the best for them. So he, along with his mentor, the giver, decides to return the memories to the community.
Lowry puts forth a lot of effort to craft the world and rules of the community. Some may argue too much effort. But since this may be many students first adventure into a society different from their own, it may be necessary.
The Giver is the first book in a loosely connected series. (The next book being Gathering Blue) But The Giver is commonly considered to be the best book of the series.
Some students may have trouble with the ending of the book. While the majority of students view it as a happy ending, some will see it as ambiguous or even sad, which can cause all manner of vocal reaction in class. If the ending upsets anyone, a good starting point is to have students create their own endings.
When this book was first read aloud to me as a child, I was totally blown away by the moment that the reader learns the members of the community do not see in color. Seriously my young little world was rocked. That’s when I realized that books can be well crafted. And this still tends to be a moment that many readers pull out as interesting.
Also, apparently the book will be made into a movie sometime around 2011. Do you think they’ll manage to pull it off? Who would you want to play the giver?
Activities to do with the book:
This book can be used it multiple ways—to discuss the way a society is constructed. To create an introductory lesson on utopias and distopias. To have students create rules for a society they would like to create (and then implement those rules for an afternoon). Scenes from this story could easily be dramatized. Children could also make illustrations of the text, paying special attention to the use of black, white, grey and red.
This book could be used to trigger a discussion of symbolism. Also, since the ending may be considered ambiguous to a few children, a teacher could encourage discussion of multiple interpretations being allowable.
“It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened. No. Wrong word, Jonas thought. Frightened meant the deep, sickening feeling of something terrible about to happen. Frightened was the way he had felt a year ago” (p. 1).
“There was absolutely nothing remarkable about that apple. He had tossed it back and forth between his hands a few times, then thrown it again to Asher. And again—in the air, for an instant only—it had changed” (p. 24).
“He is to be alone, apart, while he is prepared by the current Receiver for the job whish is most honored in our community” (p. 61).