Saturday, May 9, 2009

children's book review: the giver

I've waited a few weeks before reviewing Lois Lowry's Newbery Award-winning book, The Giver, because my first inclination is to say: read it. It's awesome. The end. I am not a big reader of science fiction, although on the off chances I do read the genre, I usually find myself enjoying it. One reason I fear I don't venture into science fiction too often is that it's hard to read reviews about the books without learning too much about them, and I like to know as little as possible going into books. With that in mind, I'll try to review this brilliant book giving away as few details as possible.

The Giver is told from the point-of-view of Jonas, an almost-twelve-year-old boy. As the story unfolds, it becomes more and clear Jonas lives in a very different world than we do. Details of when and where are scarce, as it is all Jonas knows. The reader is along for the ride as Jonas learns more and more about the community he lives in.

One of the things I've loved most about my immersion into children's literature this semester has been the coming of age story. I don't think it's a coincidence so many narrators of children's books; it's the magical age of intellectual awakening it seems. Jonas is a great narrator. He's thoughtful, kind, and increasingly skeptical. Lowry does a marvelous job of telling the story through Jonas's eyes but leaving clues for the reader to pick up on before even Jonas himself does. This layering of knowledge provides suspense on two levels: the reader wonders what really is going on in this strange world and when and if Jonas will fully realize it as well.

I cannot recommend The Giver highly enough. It's a fascinating novel, and although it's intended for upper-elementary students, it's appropriate for teenagers and adults too.

(Yes, I also realize most everyone with even a passing interest in children's literature read this novel fifteen years ago, and I am ridiculously late to praise it, but I am anyway).

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5) - life-changingly good

1 comment:

  1. Every great book needs new generations of readers so there is no need to apologise for praising it. It's wonderful, and I am glad you have discovered it. Kids love it too - try it with a literature circle. They'll go 'huh?' with the first few pages (it's OK to warn them they will), then the light comes on. The stuff of teaching.

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