The Giver by Lois Lowry

thegiverInformation: The Giver by Lois Lowry was published in 1993 by Ember. ISBN:9780385732550

Plot Summary: The Giver is a story about a colorless community that is strict about conformity. Everyone is focused on being their best for the community, including always being fair, using correct vocabulary, and remaining emotionless. Jonas is one of the newest twelve year olds, finally old enough to get his adult job for the community. His goals of greatly serving his community are turned upside down when he receives the job of the Receiver. He receives all the memories and feelings of the generations before him from the Giver. After discovering his job is to carry the past memories of all the surrounding communities, Jonas is suddenly weighed down by the previous years of color, emotions, and the reality of death. After discovering the truth, Jonas must decide how he can best serve and even safe his community.

Critical Evaluation: The Giver is a powerful novel that discusses how a young child discovers grief, death, and other terrible tragedies that communities face in a lifetime. Lowry addresses the overwhelming weight of experiencing loss for the first time. The Giver offers readers an example of how to work through heavy emotions and tragedies. The Giver also presents the difficult question of whether life is better living without knowing the difficulties that happen or if carrying those memories, including the painful ones. The novel uses a dystopian setting to pose some incredibly difficult questions that teens face regularly.

Reader’s Annotation: The Giver is about twelve year old Jonas facing the responsibility of getting his job that serves his community best. But when his job poses some difficult knowledge, Jonas has to decide what is too much for him or what is best for his community.

Author’s Information:

In 1977, Lowry published her first novel, A Summer to Die, which was based on her own experience of losing her older sister Helen at a young age. She was also going through some personal changes around this time, as she and her husband got divorced. Two years later, Lowry launched her popular humorous series of novels featuring Anastasia Krupnik. She later developed another series featuring Anastasia’s younger brother Sam.

In 1979, Lowry also published Autumn Street, a novel that drew further inspiration from her own life. Lowry’s main character Elizabeth and her family go to live with her grandfather during World War II while her father is off serving in the military. Lowry’s pregnant mother took her and her older sister to live with her grandparents during the war as well while her father was stationed overseas. She and her family later rejoined Lowry’s father and lived in Japan for a time after the war.

Lowry’s career reached new heights with the 1989 historical novel Number the Stars. The book explores the Nazi takeover of Denmark during World War II. The narrator, Annemarie Johansen, is friends with a Jewish girl named Ellen. She and her family help hide Ellen from the Nazis when they begin to round up Jewish citizens. Annemarie also ends up helping Ellen and her family escape from Denmark. Lowry received the prestigious Newbery Award for this work.

Four years later, Lowry published one of her best known novels, The Giver. The story takes the reader to a future community where there’s no war and poverty but everyone’s lives are tightly controlled. A young teen named Jonas becomes an apprentice to the title character, the only person with access to memories of the past.

The Giver was seen as controversial by some for its violent themes, sexual content and depiction of infanticide and euthanasia. Others, however, heaped praise on this remarkable work, and Lowry won the 1994 Newbery for the novel. Over the years, Lowry added to this examination of a dystopian future with Gathering Blue (2000), The Messenger (2004) and Son (2012) (Biography).

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Dystopian, Science Fiction

Curriculum Ties: (Florida State Curriculum Standards): Understanding Key Literary Ideas

Book Talk Ideas:

  • Jonas discovers some hypocrisies in his community. Are there any in our own community that should be addressed?
  • What does Jonas take with him on his journey at the end of the book, and why does he take it with him? What would be important enough for you to take?

Reading Level/ Age Interest: Grades 8-10 and Ages 13-16

Challenge Issues: Death, Grief, Loss, Sexual References

Challenge Defense File:

Selection Policy

The System will select and maintain a comprehensive collection of print, non-print, audio visual and electronically accessed materials to meet the informational, educational, and recreational needs of the citizens of Sarasota County. The System will strive to offer wide ranging collections that meet the various ages, interests, educational levels, and cultural backgrounds of all members of the community and will provide collections through which an individual may explore all points of view and issues of interest. In making selections, the library staff will do so based upon principle rather than personal opinion, reason rather than prejudice, and judgment rather than censorship. Furthermore, staff will be responsive to public demand for materials of contemporary significance and interest, while balancing this with the need to collect and preserve materials of permanent value. While library staff makes material selections based upon the tenet of one system, one collection, selectors recognize the distinct characteristics and needs of the populace that each library services. Community profiles are used to guide selectors in efforts to develop special collections and to meet the unique patron needs within each library.

The ultimate responsibility for selection materials rests with the General Manager of Libraries and the Management Team, who in turn delegates selection responsibilities to the Collection Development Librarians (Sarasota County Policy).  


Lowry, L. (1993). The Giver. New York, New York: Ember. The Giver is a great dystopian story about the struggles of learning the truth of the harsh realities of life after growing up in an isolated environment. Lowry addresses important issues like death, loss, and the hypocrisy that is imposed on enclosed communities. Jonas goes through some hard choices that determines the fate of other members of his community. Overall, The Giver shows the difficulties of choosing right or wrong. Other recommendations like this book include: Lily’s Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff, Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis, and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.

Active Listening Skills

  • Remain calm
  • Listen thoughtfully and carefully to any arguments for the collection
  • Engage in a discussion that considers every concern, even if you do not agree


  • Newbery Medal (1994)
  • Golden Duck Award for Hal Clement Award for Young Adult (1994)
  • Oklahoma Sequoyah Award for YA (1996)

Reconsideration Form


Selection Tools:

Why I chose this book:

I chose this book because I feel like it is one of the most compelling dystopians to date. Lowry was writing well ahead of times of the 90s and wrote a story that addresses important issues like grief, pain, and making decisions and being responsible for others.


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