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The Giver by Lois Lowry

Updated on August 30, 2017
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I love everything weird and colorful in this world and I try to live a life that will make the world a little better once I'm gone.

A Perfect Society?

Lowry creates a perfect society...or so it seemed. In this future society everyone is happy. It is a society which has chosen to be ignorant of its past, blissfully ignorant. A society which has systematically chosen to give up individuality and free will for the great good. A society in which laws and rules, as well as extreme 'sameness', guide daily life. A society that assigns husbands to wives, children to couples, and jobs to everyone. A society without illness, but also without weather or even colors.

Upon his 12th birthday, Jonas begins his training with The Giver and is exposed for the first time to the concepts of war, sadness, and death, as well as the joy of a simple snowfall. How can Jonas cope with the truth? And what does he do next?

The Giver

The Giver (Giver Quartet)
The Giver (Giver Quartet)
Jonas's world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community. When Jonas turns 12 he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

The World in Which Jonas Lived

In Jonas' community, a future set seemingly utopian society, people lived their lives similar to our own. Husbands and wives raised children in single family homes. The families sat around the table for breakfast each morning, took their vitamins, and the kids rode their bikes off to school, while the parents went off to work.

However, the world in which Jonas lived was not at all like our own. The parents did not fall and love and get married, they were chosen for each other by the Council of Elders. Babies are delivered by "birthmothers" whose job it is to be artificially inseminated and carry babies. Once born babies are sent to an orphanage before being allotted to married couples through an application process, at a maximum of one boy and one girl per family unit. The jobs that adults went off to were chosen for them, again by the Council of Elders.

In Jonas' community, the weather was heavily regulated - each day had perfect weather. Special pills were taken to control emotions and sexual feelings. There are no animals in the community, no insects, no fish. There are no people with physical disabilities - no illnesses. As a result of apparent genetic engineering, everyone in the community is colorblind. Sameness was encouraged and enforced, and anything different or unique was removed. Even music was cut from their society.

The people of this community had no memory or knowledge of life any other way. They knew nothing of the history of humanity - no sense of war or tragedy. The unknowingly lived in ignorant bliss. They no connection to people of outside communities.

This was no utopia at all.

Lois Lowry's Newbery Award Acceptance Speech

Read Lois Lowry's acceptance speech for insight on where the idea for this book came from how it evolved over time.

Gathering Blue - by Lois Lowry

The Giver is the first in a loose trilogy of books by Lois Lowry in that they all take place in this world. The other two books are Gathering Blue and Messenger.

Gathering Blue
Gathering Blue
Kira, an orphan with a twisted leg, lives in a world where the weak are cast aside. When she is given a task that no other community member can carry out, Kira soon realizes that she is surrounded by many mysteries and secrets. No one must know of her plans to uncover the truth about her world—and to find out what exists beyond it.

"Simply stated,

although it's not really simple at all, my job is to transmit to you all the memories I have within me.

Memories of the past."- The Giver

The Giver Won These Awards

Among others, The Giver received the following awards:

  • 1994 Newbery Medal
  • 1996 William Allen White Award
  • American Library Association listings for "Best Book for Young Adults", "Notable Children's Book," and "100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000."
  • A Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book
  • Winner of the Regina Medal
  • Booklist Editors' Choice
  • A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

The Controversy - The Giver, a banned book?

Did you realize that The Giver is #14 on the American Library Associations list of Top 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000 (source)?

It has been labeled a "the suicide book" or "the euthanasia book" and is often challenged in schools. This article from USA Today goes into further detail. Mark E Donovan explains how people attempted to have the book banned at the school he taught in.

Do you think that the content of this book is appropriate for middle school students?

Webquests - The Giver Webquests

Teachers can use these webquests to help students get the most from this book:

Messenger - by: Lois Lowry

The Giver is the first in a loose trilogy of books by Lois Lowry in that they all take place in this world. The other two books are Gathering Blue and Messenger.

Messenger (Readers Circle)
Messenger (Readers Circle)
For the past six years, Matty has lived in Village and flourished under the guidance of Seer, a blind man, known for his special sight. Village was a place that welcomed newcomers, but something sinister has seeped into Village and the people have voted to close it to outsiders. Matty has been invaluable as a messenger. Now he must make one last journey through the treacherous forest with his only weapon, a power he unexpectedly discovers within himself.

More books by Lois Lowry - Vote for your favorites, or add any I missed.

Number the Stars
Number the Stars
Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen often think of life before the war. It's now 1943 and their life in Copenhagen is filled with school, food shortages, and the Nazi soldiers marching through town. When the Jews of Denmark are "relocated," Ellen moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be one of the family. Soon Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission to save Ellen's life.
A Summer to Die
A Summer to Die
Meg isn't thrilled when she gets stuck sharing a bedroom with her older sister Molly. The two of them couldn't be more different, and it's hard for Meg to hide her resentment of Molly's beauty and easy popularity. But now that the family has moved to a small house in the country, Meg has a lot to accept.Just as the sisters begin to adjust to their new home, Meg feels that Molly is starting up again by being a real nuisance. But Molly's constant grouchiness, changing appearance, and other complai...
The Willoughbys
The Willoughbys
Abandoned by their ill-humored parents to the care of an odious nanny, Tim, the twins, Barnaby A and Barnaby B, and their sister, Jane, attempt to fulfill their roles as good oldfashioned children. Following the models set in lauded tales from A Christmas Carol to Mary Poppins, the four Willoughbys hope to attain their proscribed happy ending too, or at least a satisfyingly maudlin one. However, it is an unquestionably ruthless act that sets in motion the transformations that lead to their salva...
Littlest One is a tiny creature slowly learning her job of giving dreams to humans. Each night she and her teacher, Thin Elderly, visit an old woman’s home where she softly touches beloved objects, gathering happy memories, and drops of old scents and sounds. Littlest One pieces these bits together and presents them to her sleeping human in the form of pleasant dreams. But the dreaded Sinisteeds, dark fearsome creatures that plague their victims with nightmares, are always at work against t...
Looking Back: A Book of Memories
Looking Back: A Book of Memories
People are constantly asking two-time Newbery Medalist Lois Lowry where she gets her ideas. In this fascinating memoir, Lowry answers this question, through recollections of childhood friends and pictures and memories that explore her rich family history. She recounts the pivotal moments that inspired her writing, describing how they magically turned into fiction along the complicated passageway called life. Lowry fans, as well as anyone interested in understanding the process of writing fiction...
Gooney Bird and the Room Mother
Gooney Bird and the Room Mother
Gooney Bird Greene likes to be right smack in the middle of everything. That's why she wants to have the lead role of Squanto in her class Thanksgiving pageant. But that role will go to whoever finds someone to be the room mother. All the parents are so busy, no one can bring cupcakes to the play. Gooney Bird Greene to the rescue! She finds a room mother alright, but promises not to tell who it is until the day of the play. Now the kids are really busy getting ready for the show. But will the my...
Anastasia Again (Anastasia Krupnik Series)
Anastasia Again (Anastasia Krupnik Series)
Twelve-year-old Anastasia Krupnik is convinced that her family's move to the suburbs will be the beginning of the end. How can she possibly accept split-level houses with matching furniture, or mothers whose biggest worry is ring around collar? But her new home brings many surprises, notto mention a cute boy who lives down the street. Is it possible that surburbia has more to offer than Anastasia had expected?
Find a Stranger, Say Goodbye
Find a Stranger, Say Goodbye
Natalie Armstrong has all a girl could want: beauty and intelligence, a loving family and a great boyfriend. But something is missing; the answer to a most important question: "Who is my mother?"To find that answer seventeen-year-old Natalie begins a journey that she hopes will lead to the identity of her biological mother. And what if Natalie finds her? What will happen when they meet face-to-face?

Postscript of utmost importance

If you buy any of the books recommended from this page we automatically make a donation to the incredible nonprofit, Donors Choose, which helps provide classrooms and students in need with resources that our public schools often lack.


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