A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Messenger, the third book in Lois Lowry's Giver quartet, links together the first two books, The Giver and Gathering Blue, and leaves the reader reaching for the next. The setting here is known simply as the Village, a safe haven for damaged people and a place of kindness, compassion, and community. But the place is changing for the worse. Villagers are selling their souls for mundane things, and that is unleashing an ominous, evil force that threatens to destroy everything. The mood is turning ugly. There's much to discuss. As in ancient myths, the difference between good and evil is obvious, nature reflects the health (or sickness) of the community, and it takes a self-sacrificing hero to right things again. Matty, Kira, and Leader (Jonas) are graphically attacked by plants and trees in Forest. A major character dies.
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What's the story?
In Village, outcasts from other places, often wounded or damaged in some way, have always been welcome. It's a simple place but friendly and kind. It welcomed Matty when he appeared one day out of Forest and over the years changed him, through compassionate nurturing, for the better. Taken in by Seer, an old blind man who can see what others cannot, he has grown from a mischievous imp who lied and stole into an honorable, well-respected youth. He runs errands for Leader and hopes to be called Messenger when he's given his adult name. But Village is changing: A selfish pettiness is taking root, and discord is festering. Villagers are becoming less kind, the Trade Mart is becoming dangerously secretive, and an unhappy faction talks of closing the borders to outsiders. Surrounding Village, the foreboding and animated Forest harbors a malevolence that is making it lethal, and Matty is beginning to discover within himself a gift for healing that frightens him. When Seer sends him to fetch Kira from her village on the other side of Forest before Village is closed, Matty doesn't know if he can bring both of them safely back -- and his fears are well-founded.
Is it any good?
Fans of The Giver series who are looking for resolution in MESSENGER may be disappointed. The story's not finished yet. Though readers now know what happened to main characters from previous books, they may be left with a whole host of other questions, especially about the nature of the world and how it's changing.
Lowry's writing is, as always, beautifully textured, and her characters are likable. This story's engaging but less complicated or complex than the other two books in the series. Some readers may want more from the ending, and others may wonder about weakly explained magical factors that move the plot along -- the changing Trade Mart and Forest, for example. But most readers will find those very good reasons to read Book 4. Spoiler alert: A child character dies, sacrificing himself to save the world from the amorphous evil that's tying it up in knots. Some children may find this disturbing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Jonas, Kira, and Matty, the three heroes with special talents. How are they the same? How are they different? How do you think Lowry decided which gift to give to which character? Why?
How does Messenger compare with other books in the Giver quartet? Do you like the way it pulls them together? What questions are left unresolved? What do you think will happen in Book 4?
Why do you think some Villagers are willing to trade parts of themselves for things such as the Gaming Machine or having good looks? How does that change the Village? What is the role of the Trade Master? Where did he come from?
- Author: Lois Lowry
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Children's Books
- Publication date: May 28, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 169
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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