Lois Lowry is one of those unique authors who has won the John Newbery Medal for children’s literature twice. Once for the first book in this trilogy and once for a book about the Holocaust called Number the Stars. (Just as an aside only one other author has ever done that Madeleine L’Engle who I would also recommend highly.) I would begin by recommending any of her books; they are all worth the time and the effort. This trilogy is set in a post apocalyptic world. The first two books each focus on different community’s who have recovered from the devastation differently, both have strengths and both have weaknesses. And a young boy must heal them both and the land if either is to survive.
Jonas is a young boy who lives in a community with a lot of technology and many rules about it. He has only seen an airplane twice for planes were not suppose to over fly villages, it was against the rules. Children of the same age are raised together and each December they move up a grade, when the reach the age of twelve they are selected for occupational training Jonas in talking to his friend states about selections: “Jonas Shrugged. It didn’t worry him, how could someone not fit in? The Community was so meticulously ordered, the choices so carefully made.” However all the other Twelve’s were assigned and Jonas was skipped then at the end of the ceremony it was announced that he had been selected he was chosen to become the ‘receiver of memory.’ He was to learn all the history and story of the people and become an advisor to the council that ruled the village. It only happened every so many generations and only 1 keeper of memories was installed in each village. Jonas and his family take in an infant who is not maturing and growing quickly enough. The child is given a year extension, when the child is marked to me replaced (abandoned and killed). Jonas takes the child and runs away. Through the winter Jonas knows he will not make it and pours all the memories he has learnt into the child. But can he save the child? What will happen to him and his community? Jonas thought his world was perfect, that the elders had everything under control, that there would never be war again. But also a world without choices. Till he is given the knowledge of the past the choice to save a child or let it die?
Kira, is an orphan and she has a twisted leg, she lives in a village with very little technology and one that casts aside those who do not contribute. The weak, injured, and helpless are abandoned. However things are starting to turn around for Kira, she has been spared by the all powerful Council of Guardians, for she has a gift she is a weaver and can die cloths in ways no other in the community can. As an artisan she is installed in the palatial Council Edifice and spends the whole year working her trade, her primary task is to care for the Robe of Remembrance that tell’s the story of this community. But with her privilege comes expectations that she will do the council biddings. She befriends a young boy and his ragged dog, Matty ‘The Fiercest of the Fierce’. Matt tells Kira about another village where people are not cast aside, where they share their food. Matt brings her a gift the color blue, and a blind man that is her father. She is torn between staying and leaving the life she knows, and the truths she can find out what will happen.
Thomas Allen & Son
Matt has returned he is with Kira’s father and living in the new community from beyond yonder. This village is guided by love and compassion, and guided by the ‘Leader’ a seer arrived in this village one winter night many years ago on a sleigh with an older boy who did not survive the journey. The Seer can see the future and can often see for people what might be for his people. Matty is almost at the age where he will be named, he is hoping to be named ‘Messenger’ for he takes message both in the village and to other villages which many can not do. But things are changing, the village is becoming hostile, starting to turn people away and the woods are becoming ferial and people are dieing. Can the Leader save the village, can the world be healed, what will happen to Kira, her father and Matty?
These three books will challenge you, after reading The Giver the first time I was overwhelmed and it haunted me for a long time. I went back and have reread it many many times. All three books raise questions about community, love, friendship, and care for other people. They also show dark paths that we as a people can go down, and how it can devastate all around us when we make the wrong choices for the wrong reasons.