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The Giver: The Graphic Novel

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
The Giver: The Graphic Novel Book Poster Image
Dazzling graphic adaptation captures power of original.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Set in a world seemingly without conflict, The Giver shows the dangers of unthinking conformity.

Positive Messages

It is better to be free and in charge of your own destiny than to live in comfortable ignorance. To be fully human, people need to experience unpleasant circumstances and emotions. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Twelve-year-old Jonas initially works hard to follow the rules of his community. After he's assigned to be a Receiver of Memories, he becomes more independent. When he sees the flaws embedded in his society, he takes action and rescues a child in danger.

Violence

Jonas experiences the aftermath of a bloody battle and learns about the horrors of war. A supporting character kills an infant by fatal injection.

Sex

Jonas has mildly erotic dreams about a female classmate, which he tries to suppress. He bathes an elderly woman in a matter-of-fact fashion. The illustrations do not include nudity.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this graphic novel adaptation of Lois Lowry's The Giver by illustrator P. Craig Russell tells the story of 12-year-old Jonas, who lives in a community of unquestioning conformity and learns to give his neighbors a share of the pain and genuine happiness that can be experienced by humankind. Violent scenes are infrequent, but they include the aftermath of a bloody battle and a scene in which an infant is killed by lethal injection. Sexual content is limited to a mildly erotic dream about a classmate. There's no swearing or substance use.

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What's the story?

As THE GIVER opens, 12-year-old Jonas lives in a community where everyone avoids anything unpleasant and color has been stripped from their sight. Jonas looks forward to the day when he will be assigned to the job he'll hold for the rest of his life. But when he's selected to be a Receiver of Memory, he meets the Giver, the secretive figure who teaches him about life outside the community. Jonas gradually comes to see the magnificent colors of the world and learns that life is filled with both joy and pain. Eventually, he must decide whether he should stay and finish his often traumatic mission.

Is it any good?

Some science fiction classics seem destined for adaptation to comics, and this dazzlingly illustrated graphic version captures the elements of the novel that make it so relevant and admired. P. Craig Russell uses a blue/silver palette for the opening chapters, and it's a wonderful choice, more lively than plain black-and-white, hinting at the hues waiting to be unveiled. Even though they look and act very much alike, the individual characters pop off the pages. Russell composes that pages with a sharp and sensitive eye, always clear on the flow of the narrative.

Lois Lowry's classic novel smoothly makes its transition to comics, and fans of and newcomers to the book will be captivated by the visual storytelling.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Giver depicts a supposedly utopian society. Would it be nice to live in a society where everyone gets along and believes the same things? What are the dangers?

  • Jonas feels anxious and embarrassed when he dreams about a girl taking a bath. Are such feelings normal? Should family members be able to talk about them without shame?

  • Why is it important for people to experience the painful and unsettling parts of life? Should discomfort be avoided altogether? Is such a situation even possible?

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