I listened to The Giver because my son, a fifth grader, will be reading it in his Language Arts class. I was not expecting much, but I was completely surprised--It was captivating. Ms. Lowry has written a book that tackles the issues of diversity, responsibility, and honesty for all readers--young and old.
The setting is a socially engineered village where outward uniformity, discipline, and manners are the overriding virtues. Different colors are not visible or understood to the villagers because they underscore diversity. Although there is a stated concern for precise and polite speech, euphemisms are used abundantly by the villagers and their leaders to hide the less attractive truths of the their society. Children do not celebrate individual birthdays, but each year a proscribed set of responsibilities and privileges are granted to the children of an age group in the Ceremony. In the twelfth year, children begin their training for adult jobs selected for them by the Elders. The surface of the village is calm, but Jonas, the protagonist, has to decide if he should shatter the society perceptions by using what he has been given in his training for adulthood.
I am anticipating interesting discussions at our family dinner table when my son begins to read this book for class.
I found Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time an amazing read. The author's writing skillfully conveys the frustrations and concerns of the protagonist, an autistic teenager, with his world and those of his caregivers with him. This done while maintaining the protagonists point of view and addressing the general themes of trust and safety.
I am a special educator, and, as I read this book, I am reminded of students, past and present, with whom I have worked and work. Their seemingly pointless rituals and behaviors are just as important to them as my morning cup of coffee is to me. They are able to make sense of and feel safe with the world around them by providing it with a structure. The protagonist of the book, Christopher Boone, does this by using his abilities, perceptions, and logic. While using Christopher's words to describe his world and responses to it, the author provides the reader with insight and empathy for the people--including Christopher--in that world. I strongly recommend this book to people working with those who have "special needs."
The author also addresses the universal needs of trust and safety. What happens when trust is loss and feelings of safety, so related to trust, shattered? How are these restored when they are destroyed? Christopher's responses to these losses may be unorthodox, but they are human. The behaviors of those around Christopher are also human. This story is an empathetic portrayal of a human situation. It is, in short, a book to read.
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