Lois Responds Again!

lowryIn my last post, I mentioned that I’ve had a yearlong email relationship with my literary hero, Lois Lowry. I’ve been curious about her thoughts on the upcoming Giver movie, and decided to ask her to share her thoughts. She is a rock star and never fails to respond in such a timely manner.

Have I mentioned it’s my favorite book? Have I persuaded you to read the series yet? What are you waiting for? Her memoir, Looking Back, is amazing as well.

Ms. Lowry’s response:

I am excited that after all this time and many false starts THE GIVER is finally being made into a film.  The people involved are very respectful of the book and I feel it is in good hands.  The movie will not be slavishly devoted to the test; the language of film requires a different approach.  Only time will tell how successful the film makers have been, but I have high hopes.

As for the rest of the quartet, who knows?  If this film is successful i suspect they will want to try to make lightning strike twice.

Let’s Discuss This

Confession: I am shamelessly addicted to young adult literature about dystopian societies. I need discussion, people. And since I’ve banned facebook (ok, I cheated once) for a little bit, I’m taking it to the blog.

My favorite YA distopian novels would be:

  1. The Giver series
  2. The Uglies series
  3. The Delirium series
  4. The Crossed series
  5. The Hunger Games series
  6. The Divergent series
  7. Starters
  8. Fahrenheit 451
  9. A Brave New World
  10. 1984

I need a new story. Send your suggestions ASAP.

Who sits around reading and THEN writes about it when they don’t have to?  I literally just finished the third book in the Divergent series, Allegiant, mere seconds ago and couldn’t wait to get my thoughts on paper. This book took me an unusually long time to finish. I usually finish within days, but something kept me away from this one. I’d read a few chapters and then put it down for a week before picking it back up again. I had heard so many reviews and warnings that the end was horrible and so I wasn’t thrilled to reach it. I kept imagining the worst. Maybe imagining the worst set the real ending up for failure. It was bleh, uneventful, and just too predictable. It didn’t bother me. It didn’t make me cry or laugh or cringe in disgust. It didn’t do what I wanted it to do. Still, I would recommend you read the series. Go into the third with no preconceived notions and you’ll be fine. In fact, it might just conjure up all those feelings a good ending should for you the way it did for most. Like I said, I set myself up for disappointment by imagining a far worse and more dramatic ending than was written.

The movie is set to release tomorrow. The first book in the series is amazing. The second is as well. So if you haven’t read them, I say you must. Maybe the movie will ignite some to go read the rest of the series… the way Hunger Games did. I’m betting it will.

Now, as for my beloved Giver series… Why hasn’t everyone read this yet? The movie trailer worries me… even makes me a little sad. I’m preemptively assuming it will take too much artistic license. I already know that the movie will show more of a relationship between Jonas and Fiona than what Lois Lowry wrote. I emailed my friend, Lois, yesterday to ask for her thoughts on the matter. She and I have had an email relationship for about a year now. I can remember the first response I got from her. Giddy doesn’t even come close to describing it. My facebook wall blew up that day! I immediately forwarded her words  to everyone I could think of. I felt like a rock star. She went on to visit my class blog and write a note to my students. She was the rock star for sure! I’m anxious to see what she has to say about the movie adaptation. And if I hear back, you better believe it’ll be public knowledge.

Beauty in Tragedy

Today, we finished the third book in Lois Lowry’s Giver series. For twelve years, The Giver has been my favorite. Today, however, The Messenger became my favorite. Today was proof for me that books are meant to be shared, discussed, and analyzed. I love reading alone, but there is no greater joy than a group of people coming together to witness true beauty through words. I was given the amazing opportunity to experience heartfelt emotion twice today with both of my classes. As I read the final chapters, tears came to my eyes and I had to suppress the urge to have a student finish reading aloud so that I could gather my emotion. I finished though, and was privy to a crowd of faces that caught the same connections I did. The students felt the same bittersweet feelings as their teacher as we realized our main character was willingly and tragically sacrificing himself for the world. He was a true HEALER! We had a brief class discussion afterwards but suggested they save their thoughts for the blog. Tonight’s assignment is for them to respond with their thoughts. Below, I share the most poignant passages from today:

    With difficulty he leaned painfully toward her, so that his ear was near her mouth.
    “We need your gift,” she whispered.
    Matty fell back in despair. He had followed Leader’s instructions. He had not spent the gift. He had not made Ramon well, had not fixed Kira’s crooked leg, or even tried to save his little dog. But it was too late now. His body was so damaged he could barely move. He could no longer bend his ravaged arms. How could he place his hands on anything? And what, in any case, did she want him to touch? So much was ruined.
    In agony and hopelessness, he turned away from her and rolled off the blanket and into the thick foul smelling mud. With his arms outstretched, his hands touching the earth, he lay there waiting to die. 
    He felt his fingers begin to vibrate…

    Gasping, Matty called for his gift to come. There was no sense of how to direct it. He simply clawed into the earth, feeling the power in his hands enter, pulsating into the ruined world. He became aware, suddenly, that he had been chosen for this….

    Kira smoothed his hair. “He called himself the fiercest of the fierce.”
    Leader smiled. “He was that. But it was not his true name.”
    Kira wiped her eyes. “He so hoped to receive his true name at the end of this journey.”
    “He would have.”
    “He wanted to be Messenger,” Kira confided.
    Leader shook his head. “No. There have been other messengers and there will be more to come.” He leaned down and placed his hand solemnly on Matty’s forehead above the closed eyes. “Your true name is Healer,” he said.


This blog has always been designated specifically to my students. However, tonight as I ponder the “why’s” of what MCE teachers do everyday, I am compelled to write this post for those of you who may question why.

The most frequently asked questions I have heard this year are 1) “Why do you read so many depressing stories in 5th grade?” and 2) Is this a Common Core “thing”?

Please indulge me for a moment while I express my joy over the literature we read in 5th grade. Beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder. The literature that has been chosen for the fifth grade reading curriculum has come about over a span of five years. It has been a progression of realizations that has led us to our author study on Lois Lowry. Some may say that her books are too depressing…not appropriate….needing to be censored and edited too much. I say, those who think that either have not read her books, or have not seen the beauty that I take from her stories. Her Giver quartet gives a picture, when read together as intended, of true redemption and compassion.The lessons and discussions that come from each of these stories include seeing the beauty in our world, realizing that without despair, we could not cherish hope….without fear, we could not value freedom….without pain, we could not appreciate joy.  How many of us adults learned such beautiful life lessons such as this as fifth graders? Empathy, compassion, grace, mercy, and diversity are just a few of the topics discussed within these stories. Lois Lowry enables us, through her stories, to see the beauty in our own world from seeing the struggles in her characters’ worlds. Many of us do not have the slightest clue what it is like to struggle, to need. These characters know pain and turmoil on a level that we have never known in our safe worlds. Because of their struggle to escape their conflicts to find harmony and beauty, we see their pure joy over the wonders of a world as safe and colorful and happy as our own. So for the word “depressing” to be used to describe Lois Lowry’s literature, I cringe just a bit. Only because my heart is full of joy as I end each story with my class. My smile is a mile wide at the end of each story as my students realize the same truths I have time and time again. I have read The Giver twelve times now. Never once has it become old or mundane, because of the discussions and emotions that come about as a result of it. Please bear with me, if you are a concerned parent. Please trust that I teach these stories from a deep heartfelt place of love and compassion. Please know that my goal is not to check items off of a list to teach your child, but to give them a lasting memory of what beauty looks like. Beauty from words is the best beauty of all in my opinion.

Is this a Common Core “thing”… The simple answer to this question is a resounding no. I think the best way to express what I believe Common Core to be is to tell you what Common Core is not.
1. It is not a book of worksheets to be run off.
2. It is not a checklist of skills to be taught.
3. It is not an item that can bought at school aids.
4. It is not giving 5th graders 7th grade work and calling it a day.
Common Core, to me, means that as a teacher I am teaching in the most deeply connected way that I can. My students should be able to see how science, social studies, and reading all come together. My students should be able to tell me why an author feels the way they do based on the textual evidence from our stories. My students no longer have to tell me what is being personified in a poem, but how that personification contributes to the overall theme of the story. Deep thinking is required. Therefore, deep thinking is modeled on a daily basis.

I am not an expert. I am only a teacher with a very idealistic view of what teachers do and what students should learn. I value my profession more than you know and strive daily to build a community of learners in my classroom, who will one day become a community of leaders.

I will leave you with just a few of my favorite Lois Lowry quotes.

“Of course they needed to care. It was the meaning of everything.”
Lois Lowry, The Giver

“Be proud of your pain, for you are stronger than those with none.”
Lois Lowry, Gathering Blue

“But now he knew that there were communities everywhere, sprinkled across the vast landscape of the known world, in which people suffered. Not always from beatings and hunger, the way he had. But from ignorance. From not knowing. From being kept from knowledge.”
Lois Lowry, The Messenger

“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”
Lois Lowry, The Giver

“They were satisfied with their lives which had none of the vibrance his own was taking on. And he was angry at himself, that he could not change that for them.”
Lois Lowry, The Giver