Top 100 Children’s Novels (#7)
#7 The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993)
(#1)(#1)(#1)(#1)(#1)(#1) (#1)(#1)(#1)(#1)(#1)(#1) (#2)(#2)(#2)(#2)(#2)(#2) (#2)(#2)(#2)(#3)(#3)(#3) (#4)(#4)(#4)(#4)(#4)(#4) (#4)(#5)(#5)(#5)(#5)(#5) (#6)(#6)(#6)(#6)(#6)(#6) (#7)(#7)(#7)(#7)(#7)(#8) (#8)(#8)(#9)(#10)(#10)(#10) (#10)(#10)(#10)(#10)(#10) – 373 points
I still get flashbacks to sitting in 7th grade and hearing Mrs. Morgan read it aloud. And then sharing a copy with my best friend so that we could both find out how it ended – well worth the crick in our necks. This also fits into the "still blows me away as an adult" category. – Jess (garish & tweed)
I was nine. My mind was blown. – Miriam Newman
So many reasons why this book is a masterpiece – Lowry shakes up the puzzle pieces of our existence and lays them out in new and different ways that make you see your life and life choices differently. A book that MAKES YOU THINK. – Tanya (books4yourkids.com)
As a huge Anastasia Krupnik fan; I read everything by Lois Lowry. So long before any of the hype I met Jonas and was captivated by his story. Memory, choice, life in full colour, echoes of music – this book is timeless and beautiful. And I LOVED the ambiguity of the ending – the possibilities and perils of a future unknown. – Beth Maddigan, Provincial Children’s Librarian, Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries, St. John’s, NL
One of my favourite periods of childhood is the time when you realize that they way we live is not the only way to live. All of a sudden the world opens up and anything is possible. This realization turns kids into voracious readers. This was my first, and probably many children’s first, introduction to dystopian society. Thought-provoking, compelling, and utterly original, The Giver definitely deserves a spot on this list. – Vikki VanSickle (Pipedreaming)
"Pain, too, is a gift of great value. It is what makes us human." – Lois Lowry
The plot description from the publisher reads, "December is the time of the annual Ceremony at which each twelve-year-old receives a life assignment determined by the Elders. Jonas watches his friend Fiona named Caretaker of the Old and his cheerful pal Asher labeled the Assistant Director of Recreation. But Jonas has been chosen for something special. When his selection leads him to an unnamed man-the man called only the Giver-he begins to sense the dark secrets that underlie the fragile perfection of his world."
As per usual we turn to good old 100 Best Books for Children by Anita Silvey for the skinny on the creation of this title. It was her twenty-first novel, you know. No newbie to the children’s literature biz (as the fans of Anastasia Krupnik will all attest) the book was inspired by both the old and the young. On the one hand, Lowry was visiting her parents in the nursing home. Her mother had retained her memory but lost her sight. Her father could see but was losing her memory. This became coupled with a comment from Lowry’s grandson while on a Swan Boat ride in the Boston Public Garden. "He said to her ‘Have you ever noticed that when people think they are manipulating ducks, actually ducks are manipulating people?’ " Mrs. Mallard from Make Way for Ducklings would have something to say about that, I think. Whatever the case, these seemingly disparate thoughts combined in Lowry’s brain giving us the book we have today.
It was a big time hit from the start. Maybe this was partly due to the fact that it was the first middle grade dystopian novel to get any attention since the early 1980s. For a while there, folks were convinced that the ending of the book was ambiguous. Does Jonas live? Does he die? In her Newbery speech Ms. Lowry said, "Those of you who hoped that I would stand here tonight and reveal the ‘true’ ending, the ‘right’ interpretation of the ending, will be disappointed. There isn’t one. There’s a right one for each of us, and it depends on our own beliefs, our own hopes." Ambiguity sort of went out the window, though, when the sequels Gathering Blue and Messenger came out and Jonas was wandering about.
It gets challenged in libraries and schools on a regular basis, unfortunately. Indeed I was a little shocked when I read the USA Today headline Suicide book challenged in schools. Excuse me, whaaa? Then they go on to misspell the word "Newbery" as "Newberry". Real crack journalism there. Apparently folks are under the impression that the book is "dangerous because of its portrayal of suicide, euthanasia and infanticide in a neutral to positive light." Which is to say, they haven’t read the book.
I love the story about the original cover, by the way. According to Silvey, "A photographer as well as a writer, Lowry had worked on an article about the painter Carl Nelson, who had a wonderful sense of color but became blind in later years. For this piece she shot a mesmerizing portrait of him. She kept the photograph in her studio and realized when hunting for a jacket image that it would be perfect for The Giver."
It won itself a shiny little Newbery Award in 1994. Honor books in that particular year included Crazy Lady by Jane Leslie Conly, Dragon’s Gate by Laurence Yep, and Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery by Russell Freedman. It would be Lowry’s second Newbery Award (her first being #56 on this list, Number the Stars).
Best first sentence: "It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened."
Generally speaking I don’t tend to show the posters of theatrical productions of these books (and by this point in the poll they ALL have theatrical productions) but I admit to really liking this poster for the Indiana Repertory Company’s production:
Publishers Weekly gave it a star saying, "Lowry is once again in top form… unwinding a tale fit for the most adventurous readers."
School Library Journal said, "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."
There are fewer covers out there than most books on this Top Ten, but more than I had expected.
But don’t take my word for it! Hear it from the lady herself:
Filed under: Top 100 Children's Novels (2010)
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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