Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

Banning The Giver of Memories

I have many books by Lois Lowry on my shelves. I started reading her when I was around eleven. A Summer to Die (1977) was the first book I read that dealt with the death of a child, and I felt so sad and so grown up in reading it. Having a sister of my own, who I got along with sometimes and disliked at others, connected me to that story even more. I am happy to report my sister is still alive and well, but that book made me realize that kids die, and sometimes the kids who die are very close to us.

Next came Find a Stranger, Say Goodbye (1978). Again, with hitting close to home. I was not adopted, but my sister was. Anastasia Krupnik (1979) was a favorite, too.

As I got older, and Lois Lowry books were considered “too young” for me, I got away from them. But when I became an adult and realized that kid’s books are not just written for kids if they are done well, I discovered more recent additions to her work.

Number the Stars (1989) was a Newberry Medal winner in which the Jewish main character is taken in by her best friend’s German family when hers is forced to relocate during World War II. The Silent Boy (2003) is the story of a silent boy who is accused of murder and the young girl who befriends him. Gossamer (2006) deals with dreams, nightmares and their guardians. It is a bit of a fantasy but an interesting read.

In all her deft handling of difficult and grown up subjects, Lois Lowry was beloved by many and praised by teachers and parents alike.

And then there is Newberry Medal winner, The Giver (1993) and the other three books in the series – Gathering Blue (2000), Messenger (2004) and Son (2012). Suddenly, some parents and librarians want to ban her book, while others want to make it part of the required reading curriculum. Talk about sending mixed messages! 🙂

The Giver is about a society of conformity. It exists due to the sameness of everyone. Each person is given a job and Jonas, at 12, is chosen to be the Receiver of Memories. Only The Giver can tell him the past and in doing this, Jonas learns that there is so much more to life than sameness and conformity.

Maybe parents want to ban this book because it may teach their kids to think outside the norm, that conformity is not the path to a true life. Isn’t that what books are usually banned for? Because they get people to think? Because they voice an opinion that may not be popular?

Of all the atrocities in our society, banning books is one of the greatest. It reaches so much further than some paper and glue. It smacks of taking someone’s freedom. It reflects disapproval and nonacceptance of other people’s right to free speech and free thought.

As Ms. Lowry states on her website, ” I think banning books is a very, very dangerous thing. It takes away an important freedom. Any time there is an attempt to ban a book, you should fight it as hard as you can. It’s okay for a parent to say, ‘I don’t want my child to read this book.’ But it is not okay for anyone to try to make that decision for other people. The world portrayed in The Giver is a world where choice has been taken away. It is a frightening world. Let’s work hard to keep it from truly happening.”

Do yourself and society a favor – read The Giver. Read any banned book you can get your hands on.

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