Monday, July 14, 2014


I just finished rereading The Giver by Lois Lowry.

I closed the book, mesmerized  by the story and language, challenged by the possibilities for our future, and disturbed by implications for human development.

I closed the book, mind racing, memories reeling, and questions rising.

Just as in previous readings of this contemporary classic, I closed the book, still pondering its difficult themes.

Who holds my memories?
Who carries our memories?

What happens if our memories are lifted from us, removed from our consciousness?

And what if our emotions are also reduced or completely eradicated?

What do we lose?
What do we gain?

And what secrets do adults keep from young people?

What happens when rules that govern our society and the laws that organize our lives are hard to change?
What happens if we have forgotten why we created particular rules in the first place?

And who is best equipped to raise children?  Who should give birth? What do effective schools look like?
How do we recognize our life's work or our life partner? Who chooses for us?

I reread The Giver because it is a powerful book.
I reread The Giver also in anticipation of the upcoming film based on this novel coming to theaters August 15, 2014.

Who is the Giver?

Like the griots in West African countries-- like the one who held the stories and the history and the knowledge  that enabled Alex Haley to locate his ancestors-- the Giver holds, and ultimately transmits, the memories the stories, the history the beingness of the world to the new Receiver.

To be a Receiver, it was determined five essential qualities-- intelligence, integrity, courage, (including the ability to endure physical pain),wisdom. and the Capacity to See Beyond-- were necessary.

Do we have roles similar to these in our world?
Do we see a need for a giver?

One notion that captures my attention each time I have read this book is the preciseness of language.

Both teachers and the parents in the novel  foster a preciseness and specificity that we often our casual conversations.  For example,  at one point Jonas ( the new receiver) says he is starving. He is gently corrected and reminded that he is hungry, that he could eat a little bit, but is not actually starving.

How many times do we too make this same claim? My husband would tell you  that I say it almost every day.

I often advocate for specificity in language, but if our memories and feelings have been eliminated, how precise can we actually be?

At the OCTELA 2014 Conference earlier this year, I had the privilege of attending  a session entitled The Giver: Teaching, Memory and Education: Notes on the Power of the Giver.  

Led  by Randy Testa of Walden Media LLC, this session addressed the lasting power of this book, and introduced a theoretical framework based on three E's for bridging the teaching of narratives of books and films.
  • Education
How does the story promote critical thinking and deep comprehension?

  • Ethics
How does the story promote dialogue and ethical reflection?

  • Entertainment
How does the story promote creativity and capture character identity?

The GIVER Educator's Resource Guide addresses the Three E's Framework and includes materials that will  promote critical reading, viewing, writing, and discourse around both the novel and film.

The framework can, of course, be easily applied to other novel/film pairs, bringing depth and critical thinking to  lessons and learning around them, as well.

In addition, in this session, we were treated to an early unveiling of the trailer for this highly anticipated film.

I knew, as I watched the trailer, that I must reread the book, yet again, and must see the film.

It will be important for not only supporting the continuing interest in the book, but will initiate important conversations around our future and what is best for the human race-- conversations that we need to be having on an ongoing basis.

Here are two trailers that will probably cause you to run to find your tattered copy, buy a new copy or borrow a copy from a young person, so that you can read The Giver before the film arrives.

Why does this book remain so popular?

Why do both young folks and adults reread this book?

One powerful element often cited by children as they write to Lois Lowry is the ending of the novel.

How does it end?  Enigmatically!
In their letters they have indicated several suggested endings, all of them plausible, yet none of them actually detailed in the book.

And what other books have this same effect?
What other books can we take into adulthood as a mantra, a mentor, a bible or handbook to life?

What other books can foster similar conversations about sameness and differences?

In her acceptance speech for the Newbery Award, Lois Lowry  addresses the world she has created:
And if I've learned anything through that river of memories, it is that we can't live in a walled world, in an "only us, only now" world where we are all the same and feel safe. We would have to sacrifice too much. 
She ends this same speech by comparing the role of The Giver  to books:
The man that I named The Giver passed along to the boy knowledge, history, memories, color, pain, laughter, love and truth.  Every time you place a book in the hands of a child, you do the same thing.  It is very risky.  But each time a child opens a book, he pushed open the gate that separates him from Elsewhere.  It gives him choices. It gives him freedom. Those are magnificent, wonderfully unsafe things. 
Over the years, I have handed many books to young people.  This is one I have given often.

You can read her entire Newbery Award Acceptance Speech here .

For everything you might want related to The Giver-- information, posters, resources, blogs, trailers and more click here.

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

What book has had a profound effect on your life and continues to be one that you reread often?

What elements of this book continue to be powerful and thought-provoking? Why, and in what ways?

Reflect on a life without memories and emotions and life in which everyone is the same? What does this life look like?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of this imaged life?

Given the opportunity, how would you design a society?  What elements, laws, concepts and principles will be important in your world?

Write a short story incorporating your ideas.
Or write an essay about why your imaged society would be perfect.

No comments:

Post a Comment