A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Son concludes the quartet that began with Lois Lowry's Newbery award-winning book The Giver and continued through Gathering Blue and Messenger. All have strong positive messages about how honorable, determined youths learn to use their personal gifts either to escape or mend their dystopian societies. This story begins when Claire is assigned to be a birth mother, otherwise called a "vessel," at age 12, and she undergoes a caesarian section a couple of years later. Later in the book, several characters confront and make trades with the Trademaster, a black-cloaked, violent personification of pure evil. One character's feet are cut off.
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What's the story?
The Son begins as Claire's story, then interweaves with the stories of Jonas, Kira, and Matt (of the previous three books in the quartet), and ends as her son Gabe's story. All are heroic quests of different sorts that deal with similar themes of an unlikely hero confronting or escaping evil. As a young girl, Claire's selected to be a "vessel" -- to bear children for the community. She's not thrilled with the idea and doesn't really understand what it's all about. When her "product" (child) has to be delivered by caesarian section, she's considered a failure and is reasssigned to work in the fish hatchery. But one mistake is made: The community doesn't restart her on the pills given to all the nonvessels to make them impotent and passionless. She's driven to find her child and hopes to escape with him. But he disappears before she can effect a plan. Nevertheless, she takes off, hoping to find him. Eventually, after an arduous journey, she makes a deal with the Trademaster, a black-cloaked, violent personification of pure evil and finds Gabe, but her deal will make things complicated. Then it becomes Gabe's story, which pulls all four books together in a final confrontation with the ultimate force of evil.
Is it any good?
SON is adventurous, exciting, and very engaging, especially the second and third sections. Some readers may not enjoy the beginning chapters that describe Claire's experience in the birthing facility as much as the later parts, where she finds her strength, builds on it, and takes off on her quest journey. From then on, through Gabe's final confrontation with the Trademaster, the action and intrigue don't stop.
While author Lois Lowry uses many classic images, she adds enough creative twists to make the stories unique. And she masterfully pulls all the stories together to make her larger point about the importance of personal freedom, the strength of love, and the value of believing in yourself. Readers will understand and enjoy The Son more if they have read each of the other three books in The Giver quartet beforehand, though it could stand on its own.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the various trades that people made in the book. Do you think any of them made sense? Could Claire have done anything else? What kinds of trades would you be willing to make?
Son is the fourth book in a quartet. Do you think Books 2, 3, and 4 added to the story of The Giver and made it better? Is it what you expected would happen? Do you appreciate knowing the conclusion?
Why do you think it's so important for Gabe to face the Trademaster alone? Can you think of other stories where a small but innocent and good hero dares to confront a mighty foe who seems to have all the power and weapons?
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