Gathering Blue (The Giver Trilogy, book two), by Louis Lowry, 2000, Book Review

gathering blueMs. Lowry wrote The Giver in 1993 (Newbery winner), Gathering Blue in 2000, and finally Messenger in 2004. It is a series of loosely related dystopian novels. A very depressing series, if truth be told, but engaging and well written. Though I’ve read the first one several times (long before my blog), I’ve never reviewed it–yet. Last year I got ahold of the final book (my review), not realizing it was part of a series. I’ve just now read the middle one, and the whole thing makes a bit more sense. Imagine that.

All three novels are set in a repressive, futuristic society where the weak are put to death. It’s a place where mothers beat their children till they bleed, where ‘gift’ is not in the vocabulary, where murder, selfishness, and manipulation are the rule. A world described by words like arguing, cursing, accusing, shouting, muttering, bragging, and blood. It’s a dark and disturbing place. But this is where Kira, a young girl with a crippled leg, makes her home. Fortunately she has an incredible gift with thread, one that makes her useful.

The book opens with Kira mourning her mother’s death. Her father died on a hunting trip before she was born. Despite threats by village women who now want her property, the Council of Elders allows her to stay. In fact, she’s given preferential treatment in the Edifice, the one remaining building with glass windows and running water. It is her job to preserve the special ceremonial robe that records the world’s history. In the Edifice, she meets two more children with phenomenal skills of their own. The precious friendships that develop between them glow like a pink and orange sunset against this culture of hate. But these children, too, are both orphans. If you’re thinking something smells rotten in Denmark, you’re right.

I didn’t love this book. Like the others in the series, it’s not a happy read. I knew it wouldn’t be. But unlike the other two, it didn’t drive me to the end. I expected more of a page-turner. It was kind of like taking a bite out of a s’more and getting a mouthful of graham cracker. Don’t get me wrong; I like graham crackers. But I like them a lot more with chocolate and marshmallow. This book was just missing the filling.

In a way, however, it made me feel better. I, too, have written a trilogy, and it was the middle one that gave me the most fits. Maybe it’s something about second books. Or maybe nobody, not even a Newbery-winning author, hits the mark dead on every single try. That’s a rather reassuring thought.

Though this series is written at a fourth to fifth grade level, it isn’t really geared for young kids. I’d say middle school is a good age to tackle such disturbing social themes.

My reviews:

Book one: The Giver
Book three: Messenger
And there’s now a Book four: Son

12 thoughts on “Gathering Blue (The Giver Trilogy, book two), by Louis Lowry, 2000, Book Review

  1. With the advent of Son, I’ve been thinking about rereading this series. Gathering Blue was always my favorite, but I have to admit that I prefer Lowry’s realistic fiction.

    1. It’s a deep book, Erik, the kind that looks at what people are really capable of. Sort of like books about the Nazis. It would definitely make you think. Actually, I think you could handle this one just fine. I wouldn’t rule out fifth or sixth grade. If it sparks any interest, have your mom look over book one, “The Giver.” That one is the best of the three anyway, in my opinion.

  2. I’ve read some of Lois Lowry’s other books but not this one. Thank you for your take on it not being a happy read. That’s important to know; my daughter especially is a sensitive reader. She takes on the lives of characters she reads about and feels, really feels, what they are going through.

  3. It’s strange how I don’t really remember what I used to read in my middle school days. I read about themes like these and think: Boy, that’s heavy for middle graders! But then I remember what I was reading in FIFTH GRADE and realize that this is when kids explore these themes. Thank you for an interesting review!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Melanie. It is a tough theme for kids, but they really are done appropriately. Emotionally, I would not have wanted to tackle this quite yet in fifth grade, but easily by jr. high. I know ninth graders often study “The Giver” in class.

  4. I have read The Giver many times, but I have not read the others in the series. When I read the backs of the 2nd two they didn’t seem to be about the same characters so I wasn’t sure how they were connected. Reading your review helped me to get a better grasp on how they relate to each other. I especially liked how you found the positive points to look at about writing. 🙂

    1. Hi Jess, good to see you. Yeah, each book features a different character, though they are loosely related. That threw me, too, till I accidentally read the third one and found out it had a “Giver” link.

  5. Hey Michelle,

    Thought I’d stop by and see what you were up to (will still be watching for notification of the personal canon post). Anyway, this one caught my eye. I’d also be curious to see your review of The Giver. I’ve taught The Giver to my freshmen for the past three years and loved it. Definitely depressing, but it depends on how you interpret the ending. Even Lowry after its original publication said the ending is up to the reader. I won’t go on much further for fear of spoilers, but maybe we can talk about it via email.

    Anyway, I’ve been surprised at how many of my students have read it younger. I think there are themes in there not yet appropriate for younger students. The interesting thing, though, is that most of them don’t pick up on them until our discussions in class. I think at the younger ages, most kids read it as an “adventure” for lack of a better word. They don’t really start understanding the dystopian ideals (or at least the depth of them) until they are older.

    I’ve really enjoyed teaching it and making them think about it, but I still haven’t read the other stories. Darn that ever-growing TBR list 🙂

    Hope you have a good start to your week.

    Paul

    1. I aim to review “The Giver” one of these days to complete my review trilogy, but someone borrowed my copy and never returned it, so I’ll have to hit the library. (Grr…) Eighth or ninth grade is a great age to study these. But you’re exactly right; in fifth or sixth grade, kids take their limited experience to the book and miss a lot of the implications. I would personally be quicker to hand this series to a youngster than, say, “Hunger Games” or “Harry Potter.” But it’s definitely more aligned with middle school.

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