The Giver is on banned books list?! Gimme a break!

The Giver by Lois Lowry; published by Bantam Books, New York, 1993 & 1999; 180 pages.

Jonas, or Number 11-19, lives in a Utopian society.  He has a family unit, he attends school, and is allotted time for play every day.  Yet as he approaches the Ceremony of Twelves, in which he receives his Assignment (what job he will train for), Jonas experiences fear; no, wrong word, anxiety; no, wait, apprehensive–yes, that’s the word.  Words are measured for their exact meanings, rudeness is not tolerated, politeness is revered.  So when Jonas is skipped over during the ceremony, he feels quite anxious but does not question the mistake.  Then he learns that he is destined for the most revered position in the community–he will be the Receiver.  As the Receiver, he will hold all knowledge of life before the Sameness, before the rules and controls.  But during the transmission of the knowledge, from the Giver to the Receiver, Jonas and the old man share the painful knowledge that the Sameness is not a good thing.  Where is love, choice, independence?  Together, they find a way to enlighten the masses in the community.

For those that seek to ban this book, I say, “Read it!”  It is apparent that they, who say it is a handbook of Communism and/or euthanasia, have not read the book to its downhill-sled-ride conclusion.  Rather than tout the glories of Communism and/or euthanasia, Lowry’s book strongly and rather poignantly highlights the flaws and dehumanizing aspects of both.  It reminds me of my in-laws, who vehemently argued the anti-Christ aspects of the Harry Potter series with me, but had never read nor seen the movies themselves.  My strongest argument was that they should read the books themselves before passing judgement.  Yikes!

Back to The Giver.  Even the most naive middle-schooler will understand that Jonas’ community of Sameness, without sunshine or snow, without family or love, is not a “good thing.”  In the end, I found myself singing Rush’s song “Freewill” rather loudly:

You can choose from phantom fears
And kindness that can kill
I will choose a path that’s clear
I will choose free will

3P     5Q     Grade Level: 6-Adult

the_giverSMALLCover Art: I read the version with the cover shown here: An old man’s hand gently places a snowflake in the hands of a child with a hauntingly sparse background; the title is gilt and really stands out.  The other version of the cover, with the face of an old man, is also tied to the storyline.  I don’t think that the art of either of these covers does justice to the story.  I saw a promotion for a play version of the story, with the Giver and Jonas standing together, dressed in black on a black background, and Jonas is holding a very bright red apple.  That cover would garner more attention than either of these.  The spine is non-descript and one would have to be looking for the book to find it.

From Reading List: Margaret A. Edwards Award, winner 2007

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. 3amoeba
    Sep 14, 2009 @ 14:44:59

    Library of Congress, 2009 National Book Festival, Podcast of interview with Lois Lowry: http://www.loc.gov/podcasts/bookfest09/podcast_lowry.html

  2. 3amoeba
    Sep 10, 2009 @ 21:57:13

    My daughter’s 7th grade language arts teacher has the class reading The Giver. One student, a girl, said she isn’t allowed to read it because of her family’s religious beliefs. Daughter told me tonight that the teacher had a discussion with the class about judging a book by its first chapter; euthanasia; and utopian societies. According to the tale I was told after school, the class had a rather mature discussion about utopia, freewill, the value of all life, etc. I don’t think many of the students have participated in debates or discussions until this point; hooray for a book that can get a bunch of tweens talking and thinking beyond their parochial world.

  3. 3amoeba
    Aug 17, 2009 @ 11:37:55

    Library of Congress just posted on facebook that they are taking questions for the authors spotlighted in their National Book Festival podcast, including Lois Lowry. So what’s her response to “The Giver” being a regular on the banned books list? I’ll be listening to the podcast to see if they ask and how she responds….

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