This year marks the 25th anniversary of Maine author Lois Lowry's young adult novel, The Giver. It has won the Newberry Medal, been made into a movie, selected as one of the 100-most popular books in The Great American Read and is taught in numerous middle school and high school classrooms.
The Giver is just one of Lowry's, who was a guest on Maine Calling Thursday, more than 40 titles. She continues to write at her home in Bridgton.
Rooks: Let's talk about The Giver because it's getting so much attention this year - first named for The Great American Read as one of the 100 Most Beloved novels in America, and celebrating its 25th anniversary, a few years ago it was made into a movie. For those of us who are were not lucky enough to read it in middle school or high school, give us a synopsis. What is The Giver about?
Lowry: Oh gosh, it's fairly simple. It's a boy turning 12 in a society very different from ours, set in some future time, we don't know how far in advance, maybe 50 years from now, where the world is very different. And at age 12, all children are given their assignment for what they will be as adults. He's singled out for a particular assignment, which is frightening and exhilarating at the same time, and I'm not going to give any more away than that.
Lois, we'll talk about The Great American Read. How did you find out that The Giver was named one of the 100 most beloved books in America?
That was quite astonishing. Actually my publisher - Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - my editor, called me. They were very excited. It's an interesting list, and, of course, the final vote has just been tallied, and To Kill a Mockingbird is the most beloved book in the United States, deservedly. I think The Giver was number 44, which is not a bad place to be out of 100.
What has this renewed attention meant for you?
Well for one thing, with the 25th anniversary of the publication of The Giver coming up this year, they asked me to put out a new edition - I don't know what they call it, an anniversary edition, I guess - and so they asked me to write some additional material. I took that invitation as a way of addressing the question I am most frequently asked and which has not been adequately answered, and that is: what happened to the Community after the boy fled? The three books that follow The Giver deal with the people who were in the books, what happened to them, but it does not go back to the Community. So many kids have asked me that. I'm not going to write a whole other book about it, but the new afterword to the anniversary edition does try to divulge a little bit about what happened afterward.
What's next for you?
What's next for me is completely unlike The Giver, and it's always exhilarating for an author, I think, to write something that is not like what you've written ten times before. It's a complex book, so I'll make this as brief as possible, but I was born, because of my father's profession, in Hawaii. And no television in those days, but my dad had a movie camera, and when I was growing up, it was exciting in the evening to have Dad show the old home movies. So I had seen them a zillion times, and it wasn't until I was an adult and watched, once again, because I was transferring the movies to videotape, the scene of baby Lois toddling on the beach at Waikiki, and it's a lovely scene with waves lapping at the shore, but a friend who was there noticed something that I had never noticed and pointed it out. And he was a friend who had graduated from Annapolis. He said look on the horizon - and that's the name of the new book, On The Horizon - and there, shrouded in mist, but clearly, the shape is visible, is a battleship. And my friend, John, said "That's the Arizona." So here's baby Lois, cheerfully playing with her shovel on a beach and on the horizon is a ship containing 1200 young men, and within months all of them will be dead. Once I knew that I couldn't figure out what to do with that knowledge, but it has haunted me for some years, and that's what the new book is about. It's about the relationship that we have to each other; the relationship of the child on the beach to the boys on that boat, and more and more and more, it goes on from there.
So it's unlike anything you've ever written. but like it in that it's about the relationship -.
- Of human beings to one another and how our fates are intertwined. Yes.
This transcript has been edited for clarity. The full interview with Lowry can be found here.
Originally published Oct. 25, 2018 at 4:09 p.m. ET.