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The Giver by Lois Lowry

Updated on January 10, 2012

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?

Yeah, I think they are ready for it.

Yeah, I think they are ready for it.

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    • kate-cleary3 4 years ago

      I read this book when I was in 8th grade and I never killed myself!

      I lived on a military base in another country and found it kind of strange that I lived in the governments version of what the considered a "perfect society".

      Can't wait for the movie this is one of my fav books.

    • jenniferteacher1 5 years ago

      I've taught this book to middle school EFL students, and most of them loved it! They were definitely old enough to handle the material, although there was some uncomfortable giggling when they realized he was going through puberty. We were able to use the book to have some really good discussions about the role of government in private citizens' lives.

    • Shadrosky 5 years ago

      I read this one and middle school, and only now as parts of the storyline shift closer to reality (or perhaps vice versa) do I appreciate the warning it can offer. Fantastic, fantastic book.

    • sheymyster 5 years ago

      Absolutely, I read this book in middle school myself and it was the first book I really enjoyed and reread several times after that. It's the book that got me into reading and opened my mind to everything around me, "children" in middle school are old enough to handle this material and I believe with-holding books like this only contributes to their immaturity more.

    • TeagueChubak LM 5 years ago

      Yes, I believe it is. I first read it in elementary and enjoyed it then.

    • sguerrero2006 5 years ago

      yes, it's a great book

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      It depends how mature the middle schoolers are in that school, but if I could give my own opinion, I'd say that they are ready for this book.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      Yes, I am in 7th grade and am teaching a reading group on it. The first time i read it was in a reading group last year and i fell in love with it. I see no reason why we shouldn't be able to read it but everyone has there own opinions.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      I am a 6th grader and COMPLETELY get the book if you 7th,8th and 9th graders don't get it there is something wrong it was one of the easiest books ive ever read the community is a little different but it is pretty dang easy to understand.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      yes, me being in 7th grade really makes me think. I like the content in this book and its very exciting to see how other people in this book live. It is not even close to how we live.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      i think for all the people who don't understand this book it means they are stupid because i am in 5th grade and i understand it perfectly fine

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      my teacher read it with us and it's a great book i honestly enjoyed it and my classmates did too it is a great book

    • jenniferteacher1 5 years ago

      yes, I've read it with 6th and 7th graders with great success. Even more reluctant readers got involved in the story.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      I think that the giver is a good book for all middle schoolers, and that you can really get a message from this book. Me being in the 8th grade. It gives me a better look at the different novels that i'll be reading in High school.

      I recamend this book for people who like different worlds and think of worlds out of the ordaniry. LOVE THIS BOOOOOKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Rachel J Singer 6 years ago

      No, I read it in 7th grade, and I felt like it was very thought provoking. It really made me think and as a 7th grade i'd never really had that expirience with a book.

    • anonymous 6 years ago

      The level of reading is a good grade for middle school, however when I read the book in class lots of kids found it boring, abit visual with the drem and the bath, disturbing when the dad killed the baby and personally I didn't like the ending at all!!! It was terible! you'd think that there was supposed to be another chapter explaining what happened when he got to elsewhere, but no, it just finished. I don't like the book. sorry.. :'(

    • Barb McCoy 6 years ago

      We love this book in our family and have listened to it as an audio book as a family several times. It is always great for conversation.

    • Molly Stevens 6 years ago

      Although, as an elementary school librarian, I have this book in my library, I think very carefully about the maturity of the student before I recommend this book. It does have some elements that might upset a student who is not mature enough for it. But I have always loved this book myself!

    • anonymous 6 years ago

      Nice lens, good topic and good collection of information.

    • anonymous 6 years ago

      I read this book in the 2nd grade. I was reading at a higher grade level! I just re-read this book today because I am using the Ceremony of Twelve chapters for a "storytelling" assigment in my speech class (its for education majors only) I plan on using this book in my classroom and it is even going to have a movie made!! Ever since I read it as a young child, I have wanted to see it made into a movie!!

    No, this is not approptiate for middle school.

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      • anonymous 5 years ago

        noooooooooooooooooo not good for middle schoolers they are too immature

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        this book really doesn't make any sense!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


      • anonymous 6 years ago

        No! Why shouldn't kids be able to learn about different possible worlds in the future?

      • anonymous 7 years ago

        No this book is soo confuzing its more for like a 9th or 10th grader..............but im a 7th grader and we read the boo at school and im really coonfused

      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 Again

      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 (Laurel-leaf books)
      Find a Stranger, Say Goodbye (Laurel-leaf books)

      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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          anonymous 4 years ago

          In class today my students and I were talking about this book. A number of them have read this book and enjoy it. Great lens!

        • kmariedubya profile image

          kmariedubya 5 years ago

          The Giver was one of my favorite books when I was younger. It was the first time that I actually read something so controversial and was able to formulate my own opinions. I highly recommend the book. You did an awesome job!

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          Shadrosky 5 years ago

          Excellent work!

        • TeagueChubak LM profile image

          TeagueChubak LM 5 years ago

          Wonderful book. Thanks for the lens about it.

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          sguerrero2006 5 years ago

          I was number 20 to like your page. So glad because it's a great book.

        • lilymom24 profile image

          lilymom24 5 years ago

          One of my favorite books. I liked Gathering Blue as well but Messenger was not as enjoyable for me. Very nice lens. =)

        • jenniferteacher1 profile image

          jenniferteacher1 5 years ago

          I love this book! The first time I read it was as a teacher, and I read it in one sitting-- I just couldn't put it down!

        • franstan lm profile image

          franstan lm 5 years ago

          I loved the Giver as well as the two companion novels - Messenger and Gathering Blue

        • Barb McCoy profile image

          Barb McCoy 6 years ago

          My youngest and I are reading this together right now and it is making for lots of lively conversation. Thanks so much for the great resources.

          Adding to my favorites, lensrolling to my homeschool lenses, and blessing.

          ***Blessed by an Angel***

        • Mickie Gee profile image

          Mickie Goad 7 years ago

          I absolutely love Lois Lowry. I read The Giver when it was first published. I must go back and re-read it.

          Lovely review and tribute to a fine author.

          Squid Angel Blessings to you.

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          anonymous 7 years ago

          I'm currently reading the giver. It's kinda weird, but it's an interesting story.

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          anonymous 7 years ago

          I've always loved Lois Lowry books but have not read The Giver. Thanks for the recommendation.

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          WhitePineLane 7 years ago

          Very interesting lens. I'm e-mailing it to my seventh-grade son, who has two chapters left in The Giver. I think I'll read it next!

        • TreasuresBrenda profile image

          Treasures By Brenda 8 years ago from Canada

          Nicely done page with lots of helpful links.

          Blessed by a SquidAngel.


        • tandemonimom lm profile image

          tandemonimom lm 8 years ago

          This is a great lens on a great book! 5*

        • Linda BookLady profile image

          Linda Jo Martin 8 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

          Congratulations, this book lens is the featured book on my "Newbery Award Winning Books" lens, for the month of October.

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