The Willoughbys, The Giver, Number the Stars, and Gooney Bird Greene, all amazingly by Lois Lowry
The Willoughbys – 5.2
The Giver – 5.7 (Newbery Medal -1994)
Number the Stars – 4.5 (Newbery Medal – 1990)
Gooney Bird Greene – 3.9
Recommended for middle grades, except Gooney Bird Greene (elementary)
Lois Lowry is one of those authors who makes me wish I had been born a little later – like about 25 years later – so I could have enjoyed her books as a child. I was first introduced to her work about a year ago when our local library happened to have a copy of The Willoughbys displayed in a staff recommendations collection in the children’s department. I thought it had a cool-looking cover, and I was still on my seemingly never-ending quest to find books that T. would actually want to read (thank you, Captain Underpants for finally ending that quest for me), so I checked it out. Truly, it was one of the funniest books I had read in a long, long time. When I finished it, I thought, Hey, anyone who can write a story this funny about four kids who want to be orphans must have a whole collection of funny books. I should look for more! And so I went back to the children’s department and picked up a copy of The Giver.
Those of you who are familiar with Lois Lowry are laughing right about now. Those of you who aren’t… well… The Giver turned out to be the story of a dystopian society (look it up – I did) in which all knowledge is controlled by a single person – the Giver. All access to books, to information about life outside their community, all held in a single hand. In a once-in-a-lifetime moment, a boy is chosen to succeed the Giver. At first, he’s flattered and overwhelmed. But the more he realizes how much his society is missing, the more discontent he becomes. It’s a moving and disturbing view of what our future could be if we aren’t vigilant about protecting our freedoms.
Naturally, once I read The Giver I was amazed that the person who’d written this very serious book could have been the same as the writer of the slapstick Willoughbys. I looked up more of her writings and found Lowry had also won a Newberry for Number the Stars, the story, as told through the eyes of a young Danish girl, of her people’s efforts to save their country’s Jewish population from certain slaughter by the Nazis during World War II. Frankly, I was still feeling a little morose from thinking about everything The Giver gives you to think about and wasn’t quite ready for a Holocaust novel. Since then I’ve read The Gendarme and Sarah’s Key, which just goes to show that you shouldn’t avoid reading difficult things, or something even harder might just come your way.
After reading The Giver and reading about Number the Stars, you can imagine my surprise when I discovered recently that Lois Lowry was also the author of the Gooney Bird Greene Series! These aren’t just different types of books – they are in completely different ballparks, on opposite sides of the country, possibly on different continents. Ready now to continue my Lois Lowry journey, I checked out a copy of Gooney Bird Greene. I was not disappointed. Gooney Bird is a hoot. She is entirely an individual, and full of great stories. You should check her out even if it’s been many, many years since you were in second grade.
I’m looking forward to discovering more of Lowry’s work and I hope you will too.