by Lois Lowry
[Modern Fantasy/Science Fiction]
This book tells the story of a strange community, coincidentally called "the community." In this community, life is very different from the normal lives we live. Things are very orderly, straight forward, and planned. Little room is left for decision, choice, and spontaniety. In the community, there are many rules which everyone must adhere to. It is very plain and dull, as there are no colors, plants, animals, decorations, or sunshine. Members of the community have no recollection or memories of the past. The underlying goal of this futuristic society is to eliminate fear, pain, prejudice, and hatred. The story is told from an 11-year-old boy named Jonas. Jonas lives with his father, his mother, and his sister, Lily. Jonas is different than the majority of the members in the community. Jonas has powerful perception and often sees things change when he looks at them. During the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas is assigned the highest position in society, the Receiver of Memory. The Receiver of Memory is the only person in the community who has memories of the past. While this person get to enjoy happy memories, they are the only person in the community with memories of pain, hurt, and sadness. Jonas is to receive these memories from the previous Receiver, who he is instructed to refer to as "The Giver." When Jonas starts to receive memories, he sees memories from before the community went to sameness. The retrieval of these memories leads Jonas to the realization that life in the community is rather boring and bare, when it could be much more exhilirating and meaningful. The lack of true life and experience begins to frustrate Jonas, and he relys on the Giver to express his frustration. During this time, the two form a special bond. The Giver helps Jonas plan to secretly flee the community so that all of the memories are released. The Giver agrees to help the community come to terms with these memories once they are released. Jonas ventures into "elsewhere" with only his fathers bicycle and a small supply of food. Jonas and Gabriel are hardly surviving their escape, as they are lacking food, energy, warmth, and sleep. A large snowstorm comes and they can no longer ride the bicycle, so they set out on foot. The two are nearly freezing when they come to a hill, and Jonas sees the sled that he saw in his first memory transmission. They go on an exhilirating sled ride down the hill and Jonas sees a lively, friendly village ahead of them. Jonas hears music and realizes that this village is celebrating Christmastime, and he has made it to the elsewhere that he had been searching for for so long.
The Giver would be a great book to use in an upper elementary classroom, as it is an intriguing story that has great potential when used in education. After reading the story with my class, I would have students pretend that the story ended when Jonas and Gabriel first saw the sled at the top of the hill and write their own ending. Another great activity would be to have children create their own community with unique rules and strange ways of life. This could help them practice the entire writing process, as they would have to brainstorm ideas, plan and sequence their story, create detailed characterization, and write and revise a rough draft all before they complete their final paper. If the resources are present, it could be taken even farther and children could illustrate their story and have it bound in an actual book. Overall I think that the Giver is such a rich story that the possibilities are endless.