Wednesday, January 26, 2011
"The Giver" By Lois Lowry - Get Past The Cover!
That cover. I know, I know - it looks like a book about an ancient guy, telling some old person's story. It looks boring. Okay, it has that "Newbery Medal" gold sticker on it, which means it was selected as THE BEST children's book of 1994. But that cover says "this is for old people," right? No! It's actually dystopian fantasy about a kid turning twelve! It's far in the future, and society seems "perfect." No rudeness. No poverty, or unemployment. No injustice or inequality. No conflict. When Jonas (and all the other Elevens) turn twelve he'll graduate from being a child to being an adult, and at the Ceremony he'll get his Life Assignment. He has the first "stirrings" (an erotic dream) and is given a little pill every day that every adult takes - and those urges stop. And at the Ceremony, his friends all get assignments that make sense (Caretaker of the Old, Assistant Director of Recreation) but Jonas has been chosen for something different. Something he never even knew existed. He's assigned to be the next Receiver, and he doesn't even know what that means - he's only told that it's the most unimaginably painful and difficult Life Assignment there is. There's only one Receiver every few generations... and it's a huge honor. And what Jonas discovers during his 12th year, working with the old man who is the current Receiver (who he will eventually replace) is that their society is far from the utopia it seems. The man's name - and what Jonas will become? "The Giver."
It's a pretty amazing book - assigned in many school curriculums, but don't let that stop you from picking it up. And it turns out that there's a story about the old guy on the cover. He's an actual person that the author knew, and once you've read the book, the cover makes a lot of sense. After you read the book, you can go here to read Lois' Newbery Acceptance speech where she explains about Carl Nelson, the old man on the cover. And you'll see the book cover as pretty elegant. And maybe even thought-provoking. But you'll never know until YOU get past that cover and read this book.
I also had the privilege of interviewing Lois recently and we talked about how she chose to end the book. But to avoid any spoilers, read the book first.
I promise you it's worth it.