A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Gathering Blue is the second book in Lois Lowry's The Giver quartet. While this book could stand alone, as can the others, it makes more sense and is more powerful when read with the other three, in order. Read second, Kira's story adds another dimension to Jonah's dystopian experience and promises more development and adventure. Both take place in the future after some kind of cataclysmic, world-shattering event and seem to fit together somehow, though exactly how is not clear. Kira's world is more savage and disorderly, with the kind of violent brutality that readers might expect in a story set in medieval times: Deformed people are outcasts, parents slap their children, day-to-day life is meager, dirty, and angry, and villagers are fearful and superstitious. However, as in The Giver, a young person with special qualities emerges as the hero, and the overriding message is that kindness, honesty, and a selfless use of talent will create a better future for all.
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What's the story?
Kira, born with a bad leg in a harsh society that shuns imperfections, is left an orphan when her mother suddenly dies of a mysterious illness. To her surprise, she's taken in by the Council of Guardians, given a comfortable room with food and indoor plumbing, and allowed to pursue the craft for which she has an unusual talent: embroidery. She trains with an old woman in how to make dyes and is given the task of restoring the robe worn by the Singer once a year, when he sings the history of the world to the people of the village. Unfortunately, as she learns along the way, she's only one of the artists whose talents are valued and perhaps exploited. Their elevated status, it seems, comes with a price: They may be pampered and admired, but they're not free.
Also, their unusually kind treatment hides many mysteries. What really happened to her parents? Why have they been taken in? Who is crying on the floor below? What is the nature of her talent that so interests the Council? With Thomas, a boy with a similarly unusual talent for carving, also orphaned and taken in by the Council, and Matt, a cheerful little urchin from the Fens, she begins to explore the nature of the society she has taken for granted.
Is it any good?
The parallels with Lois Lowry's Newbery-winning novel The Giver are many. Both take place in ordered villages in a future after worldwide destruction, and both revolve around children who, given the task of preserving cultural memories, discover the secrets upon which their society is built. Although the first book explored a seemingly perfect high-tech future society, here the society is more medieval, both squalid and savage. As with The Giver, Gathering Blue asks readers to think about what sacrifices they would be willing to make to improve the world around them. In both stories, young people have special talents that not only save them but also burden them with responsibility and challenge them to find a way to make things better. That should make any one of us think.
The story is captivatingly simple yet complex, as are the characters. Some readers may wish for more explanation of a few mysterious events, as well as wish for an ending that seems more final. However, most fans of the earlier book will find this a well-written complement and will catch glimpses of a bigger picture yet to come. They will be yearning to read the next two books in the quartet.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about book series. Do you like reading several books that fit together to tell a bigger story? How does this series compare with others you've read?
How does Gathering Blue fit with The Giver? What similarities do you see between the two books? What differences?
How do you feel about the ending? What do you think author Lois Lowry is trying to say?
- Author: Lois Lowry
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Children's Books
- Publication date: September 25, 2000
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 14
- Number of pages: 215
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: May 13, 2020
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