The Giver, is a book that has stayed with me since I first read it years ago. It made an equally big impact on my son when I read it to him. The Giver won the 1994 Newbery Medal.
I read aloud to my sixth graders each week and decided to read them The Giver. I wondered what our students would make of the society Lois Lowry created. In the Giver, Jonas is a boy living in a society that protects its people from all pain, horror, sadness and loneliness, but also doesn’t allow them to feel happiness, love or excitement. Everyone exists in a comfortable, unchanging environment. There is one person, however, who is able to feel everything. His name is the Giver, and he serves the community by holding all of its memories for them, both painful and joyful. He alone knows the history of the community before it changed to protect its citizens. When issues arise in the community, the Giver is called upon for advice on how to address the issue, using his knowledge of the past.
Jonas, as a 12 year old, is ready to receive his life’s assignment in the community. Some children are assigned to care for the elderly, some become lawyers or teachers. Jonas receives the most prestigious job of all, Receiver. Every day, Jonas goes to meet with The Giver, to receive the memories of the community. He learns about war, sickness and disappointment but also about colors, the warmth of sunshine, the cold of snow and the excitement of riding a sled. He is told that he cannot speak of his experiences with everyone. He soon feels isolated from his former life and his community.
Jonas’ father is a Nurturer. His job is to care for infants and toddlers before they are assigned to their family units. Jonas’ father is troubled by a baby, Newchild 36, who doesn’t seem to be able to fit in. The baby cries at night and is not adjusting to his environment as the other children are. As a result, 36 is not able to be assigned to a family unit. Jonas’ father convinces his bosses to let him bring the child home at night, thinking that it might help him. Although they are only supposed to know the child’s birth number, Jonas’ family learn that the child’s name is Gabriel. Despite all Jonas’ family’s efforts, Gabriel doesn’t improve. Jonas’ father informs Jonas that Gabriel will be “released”. When he discovers what will happen to Gabriel, Jonas makes a fateful decision that will change not only his own destiny, but the destiny of his community.
This book is perfect for tweens and middle school readers. My students loved the book and many went on to read the entire Giver series. The entire series, in order: The Giver, Gathering Blue, The Messenger, and Son, published in 2012.
In case you’re interested in sharing this book with students, here is a link to Lois Lowry’s interview, on Scholastic.com, answering questions submitted by students about The Giver.
Here’s another link I found that with interesting discussion questions: