Several years ago I sat in a Catholic school librarians' meeting and heard a discussion of how librarians had pulled The Giver from their shelves. I sat stunned. This book is one of my favorites. I eagerly anticipate the point in the school year when I can teach The Giver to my sixth grade students. I spent the next half hour discussing the merits of the book and how it is in line with The Theology of the Body According to John Paul II: Human Love in the Divine Plan. Since then whenever I speak to groups about children's literature I include a discussion of why we need to embrace Lowry's work instead of hiding it away.
Too often this is the reaction to Lois Lowry's works. In her Newbery Awarding winning book Number the Stars young Annemarie risks her life to save her Jewish friend, Ellen during the Nazi occupation of Denmark. Parents have objected to the use of drugs to throw the Nazis' dogs off the scent of the escaping girl.
Who is this writer who inspires great devotion and also is one the most challenged authors in the United States?
Lois Lowry is an "Army Brat." Her father was a dentist serving in the United States Army. Consequently she has lived in many varied locations. Lowry has stated that as a child she was not very comfortable with people and not very athletic. She turned to books. She read. She spent time imagining and noticing the world around her.These every day details that she notices add depth to her stories. The engraved identification tag that her father gave her when they lived in New York City was utilized in her novel Autumn Street.
The emotional details of her life have been included as well. The grief and loss Lois Lowry experienced when her sister died of cancer became the basis for her first novel A Summer to Die Lowry addresses the guilt that children often feel at the death of a sibling. In A Summer to Die "ordinary" Meg and her family move to a small country house and she is forced to room with her perfect older sister, Molly. Then Molly gets sick. The feelings of fear and anger are real. Students believe them. Part of Lowry's purpose is to help young people look for and find answers to their questions about life.
In The Giver Lowry, through the characters, passes on the need for strong emotions such as fear, pain, sorrow, guilt, anger, joy, and love. She encourages young writers to think about the live changing events they have experienced. She asks them to write stories grounded in those life-changing events. Lowry believes that, "Every time you place a book in the hands of a child, you [pass on these feelings]." By Placing any of the many, many books written by Lois Lowry in your library and into the hands of youth and adults you will share literature which will be passed on from parent to child, friend to friend, and teacher to student.