Friday, December 18, 2009

The Giver

Yvonne Osborne over at The Organic Writer and Jean Oram at her self-titled blog have blog posts today discussing Lois Lowry's novel The Giver. Yvonne challenged herself to read some banned books. Knowing Jean & I had read the book, she asked us a series of questions. Our answers are posted at her blog here.

The Giver is one of my favourite books. It has so many layers of interesting and thought-provoking "stuff". It has been banned in several places. Amazing what people fear, isn't it?!

I read it often to the students in my class. Students invariably love it, although they're generally not convinced by the first chapter. It takes a few days of reading until they are hooked. After that, I don't dare attempt to miss a day of read-aloud time :)

Lowry creates a world devoted to Sameness. It's safe, predictable and utterly lacking in anything important, like emotion. When students discover partway through the book that Jonas, the main character, is one of only 2 people who can see colours, they're always taken aback. How could it be possible? Continued reading brings more and more surprises and discussions.

When I finished up the book today in class, the kids were shocked by the ending. Lowry has made them think and wonder all the way through the book. She makes them continue to think and wonder after it's all over. No neat endings, no pat answers. More questions. Awesome! There was dead silence when I finished the last sentence & closed the book. Then the questions flew :)

Have you read the Giver? If you have any thoughts on it I'd love to hear them! Or you can pop on over to Yvonne's blog and comment there.

Do you enjoy books with multiple layers? Someone once told me a good book is like an onion. You keep peeling back layers and finding more good stuff underneath. What's your favourite onion book?

38 comments:

  1. Have you read When You Reach Me yet??? It's totally an onion book. I bet your students would LOVE it. I literally couldn't put it down. You absolutely must read it ASAP if you haven't already.

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  2. Oooo! No, I haven't read it! I'm off to the book store (again) tomorrow for another gift. I'll see if they have it! Thanks :)

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  3. I haven't read it Jemi- but you have piqued my interest. Heading over to check out the discussion.

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  4. Tamika - I think you'd really enjoy it - such a good book! Hope you enjoy the discussion :)

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  5. The Giver was one of my favorite books to teach when I taught 6th grade. It always got my students thinking and inverably led to a heated discussion about what they thought really happened to the MC. Great book.

    Wish I could find another one like that for my 8th graders that my district will approve (you should see the paperwork involved in getting a book past the "review board"! Uhg.).

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  6. Mary - I'm teaching grade 5/6 this year :) You're so right about the discussions - they can get quite heated about a lot of things in the book!

    Yikes! You have to get approval for the books you read? That would drive me decidedly bonkers! I always read And Then There Were None - by Agatha Christie to my grade 8 classes, but not early in the year. They have to be experienced listeners for that one!

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  7. I haven;t read The Giver but I shall add it to my TBR list. Maggie O'farrell and David Mitchell both write onion books. I recommend them

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  8. I've read it and I love it. You are so right about it being an onion book and the discussions it generates. My favorite onion book is a PB called Dream, by Susan V. Bosak. I reviewed it recently on my blog. Another favorite (believe it or not) is Julius Caesar. I've taught it for years and every year I discover new things. :)

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  9. Alexa - I've added them to my list! There are so many good books out there!!

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  10. Shannon - Yay! Another Giver fan :)

    I love Julius Caesar too. I was one of those crazy kids who actually loved Shakespeare in high school & college!

    I'll have to look up Dream as well! Thanks!

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  11. I haven't read it yet, but you have definitely peaked my interest. I'll have to check it out.

    I just wanted to say how wonderful it is that you read to your class. Maybe it's because I don't have children or even young children in the immediate family to know this, but do parents read to their children anymore?

    Great post.

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  12. Hi Jemi, I really enjoyed your blog post. I found it via your tweet on Twitter.

    I agree with your onion analogy. I think the best fiction is comprised of multiple layers.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about The Giver. I haven't read it yet.

    I'm curious about the class you teach. What grade? The reason I'm asking is that a high school in Ontario has used two of my novels for novel studies. And I just sent a box of books to a NATO school in Germany.

    If you're looking for a new novel for your class, please check out my thriller THE RIVER. I think your students may have a similar reaction at the end as I leave some things open-ended. :-) THE RIVER takes place along the mysterious Nahanni River in the NWT--a place referred to as the Bermuda Triangle of Canada.

    All the best to you and Happy Holidays.

    Cheryl Kaye Tardif
    bestselling Canadian author
    www.cherylktardif.com
    Please follow me on Twitter

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  13. Mason - I hope you enjoy the book - it's what my students call "a thinker".

    I read pretty much constantly to my kids when they were younger - pretty much until they were in high school. We'd do a group read of a book we liked, or I'd read their books for school with them.

    I teach 10 & 11 year olds, and most of their parents are surprised when I suggest they read to their kids still. They think it's only for young kids, but it most definitely isn't!

    Thanks for stopping by :)

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  14. Hi Cheryl - my students are a little younger - grade 5 & 6. I'll definitely check out your books though. Sounds like an interesting ending :)

    What an awesome idea - sending your books to a NATO school! It's so good to spread our love of reading :)

    Thanks so much for dropping by!

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  15. I loved The Giver! I read it in one afternoon, and I loved the whole concept of "sameness"... I love books like that. I read one several months ago called Divided Kingdom by Rupert Thomson, I think was his name. It was about the UK several years in the future, and how the whole country had been divided into 4 quarters based on their personality types. While the book was not really that great, the concept behind it was absolutely brilliant. Not much of an "onion" book but it did remind me of a grown-up version of The Giver.

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  16. Thanks for the link, Jemi. I loved discussing this book with you and Jean. Thanks to your readers, I now have several more titles to add to my to-read list. Right now I'm reading The Sound and the Fury. It's a challenge. Have you read it? Next up is As I Lay Dying and sneaking into second place is Gathering Blue by Lowry. Whew. I like the onion analogy. Lets see...In the Lake of the Woods was an onion book. Raw and Disturbing.

    I'm excited to have another blogger friend to follow. Oh, and my last name has no u in it. Must be the Canadian in you!

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  17. Anne - that is a really cool concept! I love the "what ifs" of sci-fi and fantasy & distopian societies. Lots of fun to wonder :)

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  18. Yvonne - LOL :) Probably! We like throwing those u's in! I'll fix it up after I post!

    I read Sound & Fury a looooonng time ago - but it didn't click with me. I'll have to try in the Lake of the Woods soon.

    I think you'll like Gathering Blue - Lowry's mind creates such great settings & characters.

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  19. This definitely makes me want to read The Giver. I will look for it.

    Helen
    Straight From Hel

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  20. Helen - I think you'll enjoy it! Have fun :)

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  21. Jemi, The Giver sounds amazing. And talk about coincidence! It accidently fell into my basket while I was shopping today. :)

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  22. VR - I just snorted out my tea!! It really is a good book - hope you enjoy it :)

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  23. I love onions and I love good books. Those layers are important to me.

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  24. I simply adore The Giver. One of the best books! The best thing I like about it, is the ending. And I like how Ms. Lowry didn't tell us what to think of it or what it meant. So it can mean anything to every reader.

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  25. Elizabeth - yes! I love both as well :)

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  26. Elana - Me too! My kids just look blankly at me for several seconds until they realize it's over. I love the questions, the discussion, the outrage that follow :) For most it's the first book they've ever read or heard without a definitive answer/ending. She forces them to think & most won't let the book go for a while!

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  27. I haven't read the book, but I can see the internal and external conflcit that can arise from a world where there is no pain or suffering, no hunger or cold but also no pleasure, color, or choices to be made. What sounds like a possible paradise for one person could be another person's hell.

    Stephen Tremp

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  28. Stephen - and that's exactly the way the book reads :) It's a very intriguing glimpse into a "safe" world.

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  29. I LOVED The Giver when I was a kid (I don't think I've read it since I was eleven or twelve. I need to pick it up again). I've been really into dystopian novels lately so it would fit the ticket. I love to read and reread Dickens, every read gives me more insight into the characters and their relationships.

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  30. Natalie - I find that so true as well. I enjoy finding new layers every time I read a book with my class. Each group brings their own interpretations to it as well.

    Dystopian societies are great to get kids thinking about the positivies and negatives of our own society.

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  31. The Giver and The Chrysalids did more for me as a student than most all the others and not just for the layers either they were good.
    You have a lovely week and thanks for the walk down memory lane.
    Warm regards,
    simone.

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  32. Simone - I'm glad I could take you on a memory tour - which is rather appopriate given the book under discussion :)

    I loved the Chrysalids as well, although I don't remember much, so it must be time for a reread!

    Hope you have a wonderful holiday week as well!

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  33. Alright, since you are the second person to mention this book to me, I'm going to read it over the holidays.

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  34. Carolyn - LOL :) It's a really good book - hope you enjoy it!

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  35. I like 'One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest' for its layers.

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  36. I read the book once upon a time, but I think I was too young. Don't remember it at all. It was one of my dad's faves.

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  37. The Giver is one of my favorite books. In my school district (Cambridge, MA), they normally read it in sixth or seventh-grade. I have a manuscript in which I refer to it, since my character is burdened with a secret, and I hope someday it gets published so I can give Lowry's book a mention.
    My favorite book is, Too Kill a Mockingbird, which is a multi-layered cake. The old movie does a pretty decent job of representing it.

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  38. Theresa - I'm glad to hear your students get to read the Giver as well. We don't have proscribed books from our board - we get to choose :) What a nice idea to mention Lowry in your book!

    I love To Kill a Mockingbird. Another fantastic, multi-layered book.

    Thanks for stopping by :)

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