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Review: The Giver

Giver headerThe trend to adapt continues. After all, there is nothing new under the sun. The Giver is the Newbery award winning title by Lois Lowry that has been read in classrooms across the country since it won the esteemed award. The book has been adapted into a movie and now a graphic novel.

The Giver
By Lois Lowry
Adapted and illustrated by P. Craig Russell
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Grades 4 and up

GiverI confess, that I haven’t read the books since I was taking a Children’s Literature course in my Master’s Program, which was a very, very long time ago. The book was pretty much in its infancy then, but it stood out for me, because when I read it, I was of the small minority which did not find the end to be ambiguous. But apparently it was…. This too has been the spark for much discussion amongst children, teachers, and YA literature enthusiasts.

The Giver is set in an unknown future, where people no longer have freedom of choice but live a very scripted life from infancy. Only perfect children are allowed to remain. Children all age up on the same day, during a two-day ceremony. At the age of 12 you are assigned the job you will receive for life. When you come of age and start to feel those—you know—normal pubescent feelings, you are given a pill to curb them. When you get old, you move to the house of the old and are cared for until you are released. It’s a world with no color. No emotion. It’s a perfect world with no pain. The only one to hold the memories of hunger, war, destruction, devastation, love, camaraderie, joy, as well as any other feelings or emotion is the Receiver. He holds much power, though no authority. Jonas is chosen to be the new Receiver. As he learns about these feelings, he knows he must look elsewhere for a new place to live.

The graphic novel does an amazing job of keeping to the actual book.Given that the plot really sticks to the original, then the illustrations are what should be giving this book some life.

The coloring in the book is all in gray and white with some tones of blue. The line drawings are detailed and artistic. Coloring only comes as Jonas learns about color and realizes that the world is filled with color. At times, the artwork seems very stiff, but I wondered if that was done on purpose because the characters are so stiff? So rigid? So precise?

In the novel, Jonas’s stirrings are pretty benign. It’s even easy for a classroom teacher to gloss over the uncomfortable discussion if they choose to, but in the graphic novel these feelings become a little more provocative through the artwork. In one panel, Jonas confesses that he stops taking the pills and the feelings return. There is an image of Fiona inside of a bath. And while there is nothing inappropriate in the picture, it certainly a little more suggestive.

I know that as soon as I put my copy on the shelf, it will be a popular pick for my students, who all read it in the 6th grade.

Esther Keller About Esther Keller

Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. Her collection is also the model for all middle school libraries in NYC. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library, and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.

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