The Giver

by Lois Lowry. (Houghton, 1993 ISBN 0-395-64566-2. Hardcover, Paperback, Spanish, Audio Cassette, Large Print Edition.) Novel. 179 pages. Grades 6+.
This review by Carol Otis Hurst first appeared in Teaching K-8 Magazine.
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I have to confess that I don't like most science fiction. I also have a hard time enjoying many fantasies although the fantasies that have been able to break through my initial resistance are among my favorite books. It's only that I like Lois Lowry's work so much that I kept reading her latest book, The Giver after I discovered that it was both science fiction and fantasy. I had first been drawn to it by the cover of the book, which has to be the most intriguing one I've seen in a long time. To find out that Lois designed it herself and took that wonderful photograph makes it harder to like her. Too much talent, I think, is bad for the soul.

But on to the story. The society we find there seems ideal. Everyone has a job for which he or she is suited emotionally, physically and mentally. The elderly are lovingly cared for as are the newest members of this place. Every family has a mother, father, and two children, one of each sex. There is much laughter and obvious joy. There is no rudeness, no crime and no disease.

We see it all through the eyes of Jonas, a young boy about to receive his life's assignment along with others of his age group. To his astonishment he is given the most respected job of all. He is to be trained to become the "Receiver of Memory". You see, in the Utopian society Lowry has created for us, the people don't want to be burdened with memories. However, they also don't want to make decisions or changes which, in the past, have led to disaster so they have assigned one person to keep all the memories of history, their own and that of all societies.

The Receiver's job is to listen to their proposals and just tell them whether or not they should do it based on the lessons of history. The present Receiver now sets about giving the memories- all of them - to Jonas. He does so through all of the senses. Jonas learns of war and hate, of snow and trees and colors.. all of which are not present in this society. He also learns of the horror all around him. This novel is not difficult to read. Fifth graders should have no trouble reading it. You need to read it. Then decide what kids you're going to share it with. It's very special. You can't put it down. You can't forget it.


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