Module 4: The Giver

Book Summary:

Set in sometime in Earth’s future, this is the story of Jonas as he approaches the time for his life assignment in his seemingly trouble-free community.  Everything is neat, orderly, and peaceful, but there is also very little diversity.  When Jonas is assigned the esteemed but rare position of “Receiver of Memory” his life becomes the opposite of what it has been through out his childhood.  Suddenly he is exposed to everything that he and his fellow citizens have been deprived of for generations- pain, anger, hurt, but also the extremes of joy, beauty, and freedom of choice.  As his wisdom grows, Jonas must make a wrenching decision as to the fate of a fellow child and his own future.

Lowry, L. (1993).  The giver. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Impressions:

One librarian I work with absolutely loves this book so I was hoping to really like this book, but I have to admit, I was not overly impressed.  I can understand the appeal- it is a touching story, showcasing the idea that diversity in society can be messy and troublesome, but is worth the effort.  I just thought the story was a little boring.  And I feel really terrible saying that!  I know this is considered a classic and it won the Newberry, but for me, it was a little tedious to read.

I also don’t like the emotions it evoked in me- mostly a sense of hopelessness and despair.  In fact, this book reminds me of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.  I had a similar feeling as I was reading it.  The ending of The Giver seems more hopeful, but no less ambiguous.  Will Jonas and Gabriel make it outside of the community that has been their home with no feasible means of survival?  It seems unlikely to me, but Ms. Lowry sets a hopeful tone.  So maybe it does turn out ok.  I’m not sure if I’m willing to commit to the sequel or not, we’ll see.

Professional Review:

“In a complete departure from her other novels, Lowry has written an intriguing story set in a society that is uniformly run by a Committee of Elders. Twelve-year-old Jonas’s confidence in his comfortable “normal” existence as a member of this well-ordered community is shaken when he is assigned his life’s work as the Receiver. The Giver, who passes on to Jonas the burden of being the holder for the community of all memory “back and back and back,” teaches him the cost of living in an environment that is “without color, pain, or past.” The tension leading up to the Ceremony, in which children are promoted not to another grade but to another stage in their life, and the drama and responsibility of the sessions with The Giver are gripping. The final flight for survival is as riveting as it is inevitable. The author makes real abstract concepts, such as the meaning of a life in which there are virtually no choices to be made and no experiences with deep feelings. This tightly plotted story and its believable characters will stay with readers for a long time.”

Kellman, A. (1993, May 1).  Junior high up fiction [Review of the book The giver, by L. Lowry].  School library journal, 39(5), 124.  Retrieved from http://www.slj.com

Library Uses:

I can see how this book would be good for a discussion about the role of diversity, personal choice, and individual determintion in society.  In fact, I think this might be a good choice for students enrolled in a program such as AIVD (Achievement Via Individual Determination) since they are learning how to make good choices which will hopefully lead them on to a successful academic career in both secondary school and at the college or university level.  I think many of them could relate to Jonas’ struggle to take on a responsibility he was not sure how to handle and to make his own choice about his future even if it would not be popular or might even put him in danger.  As part of reading the book, maybe the students could create a video diary of their own feelings and if they agree or disagree with Jonas’ decisions or if they agree or disagree with the way the community is run.  This could also be paired with another similar book such as The Hunger Games or Divergernt.

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Filed under 5420 Literature for Youth

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