A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Lois Lowry's The Giver is a thoughtful and original novel that examines a flawed utopian society. In the world of the book, a "Receiver" holds all of the community's memories connected with pain, love, and desire so that no other people experience those feelings. The Giver is the first of a four-volume series, and it won the 1994 Newbery Medal. Lowry adapted it for an excellent graphic novel in 2019, and it was made into a 2014 film. The novel has a few disturbing scenes, such as when Jonas experiences the suffering of a wounded soldier, and when he learns that his community euthanizes unwanted people. There are also mild references to sexual desire ("stirrings"). The Giver is an excellent and thought-provoking example of a dystopian novel, and it is often assigned in fifth grade or middle school English classes.
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What's the story?
In Lois Lowry's THE GIVER, Jonas is part of a community where there is no pain, no crime, no greed, and no unhappiness. There is also no love, no desire, and no colors or music. At each birthday, every child in the community reaches a new milestone that's commemorated with a special ceremony. Ultimately, at age 12, each child receives a life assignment for which he or she will begin training. When Jonas receives his life assignment to be the Receiver of Memories, his mentor, The Giver, trains Jonas by transferring to him memories of a past that the others in the community can't even imagine, in which there was war, hunger, and disease, but also color, weather, and strong emotions. Gradually, Jonas comes to understand, and resent, the choices that were made to create his world, and the terrible secrets behind its perfection. Together, he and The Giver concoct a plan to change their world.
Is it any good?
This classic dystopian novel is not only entertaining but also a perfect book to discuss in a family or classroom setting. The Giver examines the trade-offs of a utopian society through the eyes of a sensitive 12-year-old boy. Author Lois Lowry invites readers to consider the pros and cons of Jonas' community and imagine a life without highs and lows. Is a life with no suffering worth living without music or color? Would you give up love if it meant never feeling pain? Jonas is a beautifully realized, big-hearted 12-year-old living a rich individual life in a colorless, faceless world, and his predicament is intensely compelling.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the utopian society depicted in The Giver. What do you like or dislike about this community?
The Giver is categorized as a dystopian novel. What are the elements of a dystopian novel? What other dystopian stories have you read? Which are your favorites?
Why do you think The Giver is considered a classic and is often assigned in school? What does it have to teach kids and teens?
- Author: Lois Lowry
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Children's Books
- Publication date: January 1, 1993
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 14
- Number of pages: 180
- Award: Newbery Medal and Honors
- Last updated: April 7, 2020
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