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Children's Literature Reviews
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The giver
Lois Lowry.
Contributor biographical information
Publisher description
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1993.
180 p. ; 22 cm.


Given his lifetime assignment at the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas becomes the receiver of memories shared by only one other in his community and discovers the terrible truth about the society in which he lives.

Best Books:

Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for PreK-Grade 6, 1997 ; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
Best Books, 1993 ; Parents Magazine; United States
Best of the Best Revisited (100 Best Books for Teens), 2001 ; American Library Association-YALSA; United States
Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, 1993 ; Voice of Youth Advocates; United States
Booklist Book Review Stars, Apr. 15, 1993 ; American Library Association; United States
Booklist Editors' Choice: Books for Youth, 1993 ; American Library Association; United States
Books for You: An Annotated Booklist for Senior High, Twelfth Edition, 1995 ; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
Books in the Middle: Outstanding Books, 1993 ; Voice of Youth Advocates; United States
Books to Read Aloud to Children of All Ages, 2003 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States
Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Children's Catalog, Nineteenth Edition, 2006 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Children's Choices, 1994 ; International Reading Association; United States
Dealing with Alienation, 2000 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States
English Journal Honor Listing, 1994 ; English Journal; United States
High Interest-Easy Reading, 1996 ; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
Kirkus Book Review Stars, 1993 ; United States
Lasting Connections, 1993 ; American Library Association; United States
Middle And Junior High School Library Catalog, Eighth Edition, 2000 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Middle and Junior High School Library Catalog, Ninth Edition, 2005 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Not Just for Children Anymore!, 2001 ; Children's Book Council; United States
Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts, 1994 ; NCTE Children's Literature Assembly; United States
Notable Children's Books, 1994 ; Association for Library Service to Children; United States
Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of the Social Studies, 1993 ; National Council for the Social Studies NCSS; United States
School Library Journal Best Books, 1993 ; Cahners; United States
School Library Journal: Best Books for Young Adults, 1993 ; Cahners; United States
Senior High Core Collection, Seventeenth Edition, 2007 ; The H. W. Wilson Co.; United States
Senior High School Library Catalog, Sixteenth Edition, 2002 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Teachers' Choices, 1994 ; International Reading Association; United States
YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 1994 ; American Library Association; United States

Awards, Honors, Prizes:

ABC Children's Booksellers Choices Award, 1994 Winner Young Adults United States
Arizona Young Readers' Award, 1995 Winner Middle School/Young Adult Arizona
Buckeye Children's Book Award, 1997 Winner Gr. 6-8 Ohio
Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award, 1997 Winner Indiana
Garden State Children's Book Award, 1996 Winner Fiction (Gr. 6-8) New Jersey
Garden State Teen Book Award, 1996 Winner New Jersey
Golden Archer Award, 1996 Winner Middle / Junior High Wisconsin
Golden Archer Award, 1996 Winner Middle/Junior High Wisconsin
Golden Duck Award for Excellence in Children's Science Fiction Literature, 1994 Winner Hal Clement Award for Young Adults United States
Golden Sower Award, 1995 Winner Grades 6-9 Nebraska
Great Stone Face Award, 1996 Winner New Hampshire
John Newbery Medal, 1994 Winner United States
Land of Enchantment Book Award, 1997 Winner New Mexico
Maine Student Book Award, 1995 Winner Maine
Massachusetts Children's Book Award, 1995 Honor Book Massachusetts
Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature, 1994 Finalist Children's Literature United States
Nevada Young Readers' Award, 1995 Winner Grades 9-12 Nevada
Pennsylvania Young Readers' Choice Award, 1995 Winner Grades 3-6 Pennsylvania
Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award, 1996 Winner Illinois
Sequoyah Book Award, 1996 Winner Young Adult Book Award Oklahoma
Soaring Eagle Book Award, 1996 1st Runner-up Grades 7-12 Wyoming
Virginia Young Readers Program, 1996 Winner Middle School Virginia
William Allen White Children's Book Award, 1996 Winner Kansas
Young Reader's Choice Award, 1996 Winner Grades 9-12 Pacific Northwest
Young Reader's Choice Award, 1996 Winner Senior Pacific Northwest

State and Provincial Reading Lists:

Charlie May Simon Children’s Book Award Reading List, 1995-1996 ; Nominee; Arkansas
Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award, 1995 ; Nominee; Colorado
Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award, 1997-98 ; Nominee; Colorado
Golden Sower Award, 1995 ; Nominee; Young Adult; Nebraska
Great Stone Face Award, 1995-1996 ; Nominee; New Hampshire
Indian Paintbrush Book Award, 1996 ; Nominee; Wyoming
Kentucky Bluegrass Award, 1995 ; Nominee; Kentucky
Lone Star Reading List, 1994-1995 ; Texas
Maine Student Book Award, 1994-1995 ; Nominee; Maine
MRA Reader's Choice Award, 1996 ; Nominee; Grades 6-12; Michigan
Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award, 1996 ; Nominee; Illinois
Virginia State Young Readers' Award, 1996 ; Nominee; Middle School Level, Grades 6-9; Virginia
William Allen White Children's Book Award, 1995-1996 ; Master List; Kansas
Young Adult Reading Program, 1995 ; Grades 7-12; South Dakota

Curriculum Tools:

Link to Reading Guide at
Link to Reading Guide at Young Adult Books Central website

Reading Measurement Programs:

Accelerated Reader
Interest Level Middle Grade
Book Level 5.7
Accelerated Reader Points 7
Accelerated Vocabulary, Literacy Skills

Reading Counts-Scholastic
Interest Level 6-8
Reading Level 6
Title Point Value 9
Lexile Measure 760


Ilene Cooper (Booklist, Apr. 15, 1993 (Vol. 89, No. 16))
Lowry once again turns in a new direction; this time to the future. Jonas lives in a world that many of us have longed for. There is no war, poverty, or family turmoil, and so no fear, no hardship, no everyday discontent, no long-term terror. Jonas lives with his father, who's a Nurturer at the childcare center; his mother, who works at the Department of Justice; and his sister, Lily, who is a Six. Jonas himself is soon to be a Twelve, an important age because each year at the annual Ceremony all the 12-years-olds in the community receive their life assignments from the Elders. Jonas is named to the most prestigious and unusual job in the community--the Receiver of Memory. There is only one Receiver, and when he grows old, he trains his successor. Jonas is both puzzled and frightened by his job, which requires him to receive all the memories of their world and the land that lies beyond their community, Elsewhere. Like the falling of night, the story's mood changes almost imperceptibly. Readers lulled by the warmth and safety of the community will find themselves quite surprised as the darkness enfolds them. What the former Receiver, now the Giver, has to tell Jonas rocks the boy's sense of self and turns inside out the life he has known. At first, the Giver offers benign memories--of snow, sunshine, and color, things that existed before the community went to Sameness--and the boy grieves for what has been lost. But soon Jonas receives memories of pain and death, and then he is torn. Perhaps his community's decision to shelter the citizens from the world's sorrow has been correct. Yet by going to Sameness, the community has also eliminated all possibilities for choice and, finally, for happiness. The simplicity and directness of Lowry's writing force readers to grapple with their own thoughts about this dichotomy; though it is clear what the right answer is (and, at times, the narrative lacks subtlety in insisting upon that answer), the allure of a life without pain will give even the least philosophical of readers something to ponder. Lowry forces the point for Jonas when he learns that baby Gabriel, whom the family had been raising, is to be Released. Jonas had always thought Release simply meant going Elsewhere, but now he knows the term's real meaning: the baby will be killed. So to save Gabriel, and with the Giver's help, Jonas decides to flee to Elsewhere. Lowry heightens the tension as Jonas and Gabriel dodge search parties and airplanes, face starvation, and become weaker seeking a better place. Lowry's ending is the most unsatisfying element of the book. Jonas and Gabriel, freezing, starving, very near death, finally see the lights and hear the music of Elsewhere. But have they arrived? Or, as some (mainly adults, perhaps) will wonder--have the children died? With the book's tension level raised so high, readers will want closure, not ambiguity. Anti-Utopian novels have an enduring appeal. This one makes an especially good introduction to the genre because it doesn't load the dice by presenting the idea of a community structured around safety as totally negative. There's a distinctly appealing comfort in sameness that kids--especially junior high kids--will recognize. Yet the choice is clear. Sameness versus freedom, happiness at the risk of pain. Something to talk about. Category: Older Readers. 1993, Houghton, $13.95. Gr. 6-9. Starred Review.

Jan Lieberman (Children's Literature)
Jonas lives in a perfect society. There is no pain, poverty, divorce, delinquency, etc. One's life's work is chosen by the Elders. At the Ceremony of 12, Jonas is shocked to learn that he has been awarded the most prestigious honor. His assignment will be that of Receiver of Memories. He studies with "the Giver," a man he comes to love. Within time he learns the horrifying secrets of his community and must make a decision that will test his courage, intelligence, and stamina. This is a stunning, provocative science fiction story that will inspire discussion. 1997 (orig. 1993), Houghton/Dell, $14.95, $5.50 and $2.69. Ages 11 to 14.

Susie Wilde (Children's Literature)
Lowry won the Newbery award for this book, her first science fiction story. Jonas is an adolescent living in a world that has a decidedly futuristic feel. When he turns twelve, he gets the job that will last him the rest of his life. He's the Receiver of Memory, the one who receives from the Giver all the memories of his society. Jonas is given great privileges, new privacy, and information that allow him (and readers) to see through the society's apparent Eden. At first his world seems great, but then, bit by bit, she tears away at the perfection she has built. 1993, Houghton Mifflin, $14.95, $5.50 and $2.69. Ages 12 to 15.

CCBC (Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices, 1993)
In Jonas' world, there is no pain, no conflict, no poverty or injustice. Everything, including the work you will do for the rest of your life, is carefully planned out and controlled. On his twelfth birthday, Jonas, along with all the other twelve-year-olds, is assigned his life role in the community by the Elders: apprentice to the Giver. It's not what he expected. He's never even heard of the Giver, but as he learns under this mysterious man who keeps the history, he begins to receive memories of another place and time, and his perceptions of his perfect world start to radically alter. This gripping tale, set in a not-so-distant-future time, raises provactive issues for discussion and has a dramatic ending that will leave readers clamoring to offer their own interpretations of events. CCBC categories: Fiction For Children; Fiction For Teenagers. 1993, Houghton Mifflin, 180 pages, $13.95. Ages 10-14.

Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, 1993)
In a radical departure from her realistic fiction and comic chronicles of Anastasia, Lowry creates a chilling, tightly controlled future society where all controversy, pain, and choice have been expunged, each childhood year has its privileges and responsibilities, and family members are selected for compatibility. As Jonas approaches the "Ceremony of Twelve," he wonders what his adult "Assignment" will be. Father, a "Nurturer," cares for "newchildren"; Mother works in the "Department of Justice"; but Jonas's admitted talents suggest no particular calling. In the event, he is named "Receiver," to replace an Elder with a unique function: holding the community's memories--painful, troubling, or prone to lead (like love) to disorder; the Elder ("The Giver") now begins to transfer these memories to Jonas. The process is deeply disturbing; for the first time, Jonas learns about ordinary things like color, the sun, snow, and mountains, as well as love, war, and death: the ceremony known as "release" is revealed to be murder. Horrified, Jonas plots escape to "Elsewhere," a step he believes will return the memories to all the people, but his timing is upset by a decision to release a newchild he has come to love. Ill-equipped, Jonas sets out with the baby on a desperate journey whose enigmatic conclusion resonates with allegory: Jonas may be a Christ figure, but the contrasts here with Christian symbols are also intriguing. Wrought with admirable skill--the emptiness and menace underlying this Utopia emerge step by inexorable step: a richly provocative novel. 1993, Houghton Mifflin, $13.95. Starred Review. © 1993 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
In the ``ideal'' world into which Jonas was born, everybody has sensibly agreed that well-matched married couples will raise exactly two offspring, one boy and one girl. These children's adolescent sexual impulses will be stifled with specially prescribed drugs; at age 12 they will receive an appropriate career assignment, sensibly chosen by the community's Elders. This is a world in which the old live in group homes and are ``released''--to great celebration--at the proper time; the few infants who do not develop according to schedule are also ``released,'' but with no fanfare. Lowry's development of this civilization is so deft that her readers, like the community's citizens, will be easily seduced by the chimera of this ordered, pain-free society. Until the time that Jonah begins training for his job assignment--the rigorous and prestigious position of Receiver of Memory--he, too, is a complacent model citizen. But as his near-mystical training progresses, and he is weighed down and enriched with society's collective memories of a world as stimulating as it was flawed, Jonas grows increasingly aware of the hypocrisy that rules his world. With a storyline that hints at Christian allegory and an eerie futuristic setting, this intriguing novel calls to mind John Christopher's Tripods trilogy and Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Match Girl. Lowry is once again in top form--raising many questions while answering few, and unwinding a tale fit for the most adventurous readers. Ages 12-14. (Apr.)

Laura M. Zaidman (The ALAN Review, Fall 1994 (Vol. 22, No. 1))
Winner of the 1994 Newbery Medal, Lowry's thought-provoking fantasy challenges adolescents to explore important social and political issues. The Giver trains twelve-year-old Jonas as the next Receiver of Memory, the community's receptacle of past memories. This seemingly utopian society (without pain, poverty, unemployment, or disorder) is actually a body- and mind-controlling dystopia (without love, colors, sexual feelings, or memories of the past). In an exciting plot twist, Jonas courageously resolves his moral dilemma and affirms the human spirit's power to prevail, to celebrate love, and to transmit memories. From the book jacket's evocative photographic images--The Giver in black and white; trees in blazing color--to the suspenseful conclusion, this book is first-rate. Just as Lowry's Number the Stars (which received the 1990 Newbery Medal) portrays the Danish people's triumph over Nazi persecution, The Giver engages the reader in an equally inspiring victory over totalitarian inhumanity. 1993, Houghton Mifflin, 180 pp., $13.95. Ages 11 up.

Roger Sutton (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, April 1993 (Vol. 46, No. 8))
The future society in which Jonas lives is benevolently, but totally, controlled. Babies are birthed by anonymous Birthmothers, then adopted by couples who each raise no more than two children. Sex is repressed, thanks to a pill each citizen of the Community is given upon reaching puberty. Vocations are assigned by the Committee of Elders when each child reaches the age of twelve. While all these strictures are staples of science fiction, author Lowry, new to the genre, must be credited for the calm simplicity with which she describes Jonas' community. Like B. F. Skinner's Walden Two, it seems a peaceful place, where its people have been so seduced into its protections that they don't think to question the alternatives. But Jonas, who much to his surprise has been assigned the important job of Receiver, the one who holds all the memories of the past for the community, learns that security may mean less than total fulfillment. The novel takes a didactic turn when Jonas, through the elderly Giver, begins to receive memories of colors, Christmas, family warmth and deep unhappiness. All these losses have already been implicitly rendered, and spelling them out turns story into sermon. When Jonas learns that his tiny foster brother Gabriel is to be Released (killed) for his failure to thrive, he runs away with the baby-a tense escape, the first real action in the story, but unfortunately it's the conclusion, and a closing ecstatic vision leaves readers thinking that Jonas and Gabe have either died of exposure, or have headed into a new life, one that might be detailed in a sequel. Lowry could go a lot further with the intriguingly cool world she has created, but the present novel feels too much like a scene-setting introduction. Ad--Additional book of acceptable quality for collections needing more material in the area. Reviewed from galleys (c) Copyright 1993, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 1993, Houghton, [208p], $13.95. Grades 5-8.


Science fiction.
LanguageCall NumberLCCNDewey DecimalISBN/ISSN
English (eng) PZ7.L9673 Gi 1993
92015034 [Fic]
0395645662 : $13.95
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