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Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Top 100 Children’s Novels (#7)

#7 The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993)
(#1)(#1)(#1)(#1)(#1)(#1) (#1)(#1)(#1)(#1)(#1)(#1) (#2)(#2)(#2)(#2)(#2)(#2) (#2)(#2)(#2)(#3)(#3)(#3) (#4)(#4)(#4)(#4)(#4)(#4) (#4)(#5)(#5)(#5)(#5)(#5) (#6)(#6)(#6)(#6)(#6)(#6) (#7)(#7)(#7)(#7)(#7)(#8) (#8)(#8)(#9)(#10)(#10)(#10) (#10)(#10)(#10)(#10)(#10) – 373 points

I still get flashbacks to sitting in 7th grade and hearing Mrs. Morgan read it aloud. And then sharing a copy with my best friend so that we could both find out how it ended – well worth the crick in our necks. This also fits into the "still blows me away as an adult" category. – Jess (garish & tweed)

I was nine. My mind was blown. – Miriam Newman

So many reasons why this book is a masterpiece – Lowry shakes up the puzzle pieces of our existence and lays them out in new and different ways that make you see your life and life choices differently. A book that MAKES YOU THINK. – Tanya (

As a huge Anastasia Krupnik fan; I read everything by Lois Lowry. So long before any of the hype I met Jonas and was captivated by his story. Memory, choice, life in full colour, echoes of music – this book is timeless and beautiful. And I LOVED the ambiguity of the ending – the possibilities and perils of a future unknown. – Beth Maddigan, Provincial Children’s Librarian, Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries, St. John’s, NL

One of my favourite periods of childhood is the time when you realize that they way we live is not the only way to live. All of a sudden the world opens up and anything is possible. This realization turns kids into voracious readers. This was my first, and probably many children’s first, introduction to dystopian society. Thought-provoking, compelling, and utterly original, The Giver definitely deserves a spot on this list. – Vikki VanSickle (Pipedreaming)

"Pain, too, is a gift of great value.  It is what makes us human." – Lois Lowry

The plot description from the publisher reads, "December is the time of the annual Ceremony at which each twelve-year-old receives a life assignment determined by the Elders. Jonas watches his friend Fiona named Caretaker of the Old and his cheerful pal Asher labeled the Assistant Director of Recreation. But Jonas has been chosen for something special. When his selection leads him to an unnamed man-the man called only the Giver-he begins to sense the dark secrets that underlie the fragile perfection of his world."

As per usual we turn to good old 100 Best Books for Children by Anita Silvey for the skinny on the creation of this title.  It was her twenty-first novel, you know.  No newbie to the children’s literature biz (as the fans of Anastasia Krupnik will all attest) the book was inspired by both the old and the young.  On the one hand, Lowry was visiting her parents in the nursing home.  Her mother had retained her memory but lost her sight.  Her father could see but was losing her memory.  This became coupled with a comment from Lowry’s grandson while on a Swan Boat ride in the Boston Public Garden.  "He said to her ‘Have you ever noticed that when people think they are manipulating ducks, actually ducks are manipulating people?’ "  Mrs. Mallard from Make Way for Ducklings would have something to say about that, I think.  Whatever the case, these seemingly disparate thoughts combined in Lowry’s brain giving us the book we have today.

It was a big time hit from the start.  Maybe this was partly due to the fact that it was the first middle grade dystopian novel to get any attention since the early 1980s.  For a while there, folks were convinced that the ending of the book was ambiguous.  Does Jonas live?  Does he die?  In her Newbery speech Ms. Lowry said, "Those of you who hoped that I would stand here tonight and reveal the ‘true’ ending, the ‘right’ interpretation of the ending, will be disappointed. There isn’t one. There’s a right one for each of us, and it depends on our own beliefs, our own hopes."  Ambiguity sort of went out the window, though, when the sequels Gathering Blue and Messenger came out and Jonas was wandering about.

It gets challenged in libraries and schools on a regular basis, unfortunately.  Indeed I was a little shocked when I read the USA Today headline Suicide book challenged in schools.  Excuse me, whaaa?  Then they go on to misspell the word "Newbery" as "Newberry".  Real crack journalism there.  Apparently folks are under the impression that the book is "dangerous because of its portrayal of suicide, euthanasia and infanticide in a neutral to positive light."  Which is to say, they haven’t read the book.

I love the story about the original cover, by the way.  According to Silvey, "A photographer as well as a writer, Lowry had worked on an article about the painter Carl Nelson, who had a wonderful sense of color but became blind in later years.  For this piece she shot a mesmerizing portrait of him.  She kept the photograph in her studio and realized when hunting for a jacket image that it would be perfect for The Giver."

It won itself a shiny little Newbery Award in 1994.  Honor books in that particular year included Crazy Lady by Jane Leslie Conly, Dragon’s Gate by Laurence Yep, and Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery by Russell Freedman.  It would be Lowry’s second Newbery Award (her first being #56 on this list, Number the Stars).

Best first sentence:  "It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened."

Generally speaking I don’t tend to show the posters of theatrical productions of these books (and by this point in the poll they ALL have theatrical productions) but I admit to really liking this poster for the Indiana Repertory Company’s production:

Publishers Weekly gave it a star saying, "Lowry is once again in top form… unwinding a tale fit for the most adventurous readers."

School Library Journal said, "The author makes real abstract concepts, such as the meaning of a life in which there are virtually no choices to be made and no experiences with deep feelings. This tightly plotted story and its believable characters will stay with readers for a long time."

There are fewer covers out there than most books on this Top Ten, but more than I had expected. 

But don’t take my word for it!  Hear it from the lady herself:

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. I had this book much higher up on my list (#2 I think). But, then again, this was my favorite book for many years – ever since my 5th grade teacher read it to our class. I re-read it several times between elementary school and college.

  2. rockinlibrarian says

    THREE of my own votes in a row! Makes me worry I won’t have anything left to look forward to by the end! (Naw. Still two more of my own votes I expect to make it, and the rest of my predictions sure aren’t BAD…)

    I LOVE that Collins Readers cover with the apple. Really the only reason I picked up the original cover was because I was a nerd as a teenager who actually read the Newberys because they won Newberys (unlike the kids who are turned OFF by award-winners), but THAT cover, with the apple, I would have picked up on its own merit.

  3. kmorgan.genau says

    I made the mistake of reading The Handmaid’s Tale at a very young age, and holding out on The Giver until college. It doesn’t quite have the same punch after reading loads of dystopian fiction. And the “sequels” make me shudder.

  4. My all-time favourite. Loved almost every detail of this novel, especially the controversial ending (as I mentioned, but always feel the need to defend). I didn’t feel as passionate about the companion novel and sequel (Gathering Blue and Messenger) and I’m curious how others felt about the follow-ups…?

  5. I’m so, so, so glad to see THE GIVER in the top ten. This is one of my all-time favorites and has been since I read it when I was a tween.

  6. ::Grins and sighs contentedly::

  7. Wow I am sorta bummed that my top ten was way off the mark! Although I loved the Giver, it didn’t make the cut for me. I definitely went with my own personal top 10 and not what I thought would be the most popular 10, and maybe that’s what made the difference? Or perhaps my taste is just very unique, haha 🙂

  8. Melissa ZD says

    I still remember being THE ONLY ONE in my children’s lit course at library school who was sure Jonas died at the end. For me, it was so clearly a “Little Match Girl” ending that I never went on to read the sequels.

  9. Genevieve says

    My son just read The Giver this past month, was completely blown away by it, and insisted that it had to be in the top ten. (So thanks, kiddo! I even got it right at #7.)
    I hadn’t read it until a few years back, and thought it was good, but like someone above said, I’d read too many dystopian novels by then for it to knock me out. But reading it with him was a new experience.

  10. Yep, I completely left The Giver off my top ten predictions … perhaps because I teach this book every year in my YA Lit. class for grad. students. It creates wonderful class discussions and, even though Jonas is 12, I’ve always felt the themes and images were for older kids. Hmmm. All your comments are fascinating. And now I have to decide which of my own predictions bites the dust today … guess it will have to be Treasure Island?

  11. I can see not enjoying The Giver as much if you’ve already been exposed to dystopian lit… but man oh man, it was the first I read, and started my love for the genre. (Invitation to the Game was also on my personal top-ten, and The Green Book barely missed the cut. And that’s not even counting the mountains of adult ones.)

  12. I was underwhelmed by THE GIVER as well. So put me in with the other readers of dystopian fiction. But I can understand why it would hit people hard if it was their first real exposure to the genre.

  13. A great mind-bending introduction to a Despotic State; I love to watch my 6th graders implode upon the impact of this idea.

    I have a friend who thinks Lowry was subliminally influenced by a Sylvia Engdahl plot.

    I’m tickled to hear of other Anastasia Krupnik fans. I tried to name my only daughter Anastasia, but her father would have none of that.

    Thank you for the story behind the cover.

    4 for 4, but only one in the correct spot. At this point I can only hope to get 2 or 3 more in the right spot.

  14. I was late reading this book; it was last year with the middle-school girl I tutor. I loved it, she didn’t get it at all and I was desperately trying to get her to understand the Dystopian idea. Having read it for her middle school English class I wasn’t sure this was a middle grade book, but I see that many people read it much younger. Maybe I’ll read it with my son …

    Coincidentally, I found this cover today (by one of my favorite indie graphic artists):

  15. I know part of my love of the book is that it was my first exposure to dystopian lit, and I can see how the dystopian elements wouldn’t have the same impact reading it as an adult, but I still hold that Lowry’s writing is pretty darn near perfect in The Giver. Although now I really want to reread Anastasia…

  16. RM1(SS) (ret) says

    Hey – where’d my comment go? Let’s try that again….

    If I could have read this in junior high (or even high school), I probably would have loved it. However, comma…. I was 39 when it came out, and I don’t think I even heard of it before I started reading the Newberys three years ago – and by then I’d been a big S M Stirling fan for years. I think my first dystopia was 1984, back when I was in high school. (Note to self: Reread that!)

    Didn’t even come close to a spot on my Top Ten prediction. Not sure if I would even have put it on a Top 100 prediction….


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