Customer Reviews: Gathering Blue
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VINE VOICEon September 4, 2000
Lois Lowry has written a number of excellent books including "Number the Stars" and my personal favorite, "The Giver." In fact, "The Giver" is a book that I would consider truly great. Reminiscent of Orwell's "1984", it, too, describes an anti-utopian future of considerable power. But, whereas in "1984" we know the strangeness of the world we are reading about from the first paragraph, Lowry builds the strangeness of the world of "The Giver" slowly, with revelations that take the story to a fever-pitch. It is a wonderful book.
"Gathering Blue" has a similar flavor to "The Giver" but not the power. Whereas "The Giver" reminded me of "1984", "Gathering Blue" reminded me of "Planet of the Apes." Now, I'm a fan of "Planet of the Apes", mind you, but it's not the same thing.
Again, in "Gathering Blue", there is the story of an anti-utopian future society. Kira is a girl who has lost both of her parents. The book opens with her mourning her mother. Because of her deformed leg, Kira is now at risk of being killed herself as she can no longer contribute to her society made primitive after an event called the Ruin. Her unequalled skill with a needle and thread, however, keep her alive and get her close enough to the power of her society to see its secret horrors.
"Gathering Blue" is a good story. Certainly better than much of what's out there. What I like about this story even over "The Giver" is that it seems almost more real. While reading, I felt that this kind of primitive society could really develop. What it lacks is the tension and surprises of "The Giver." There is little tension in Kira's trial because we know she has to live for the story to go on. There are a couple of surprises in the last few pages but they are not a powerful as in "The Giver."
It is a risk to read a book by an author who has written one of your favorite books because it is difficult to beat the comparison. Still, "Gathering Blue" is an excellent book and well worth the read. But I would recommend "The Giver" to anyone who reads this.
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on August 23, 2000
What if all modern technology vanished? What if the daily struggle for food and shelter became the utmost priority in our world? Who would be considered of value in the society that followed? Ms. Lowry has given readers a story with all the impact of her earlier book, The Giver. Gathering Blue is also a novel set in the possible future, where insular towns and villages have developed, and contact between them is almost nonexistent. In one of these villages, the reader is introduced to a young girl named Kira. Through Kira's eyes, the reader is gradually pulled in to discover the horrifying, and entirely possible, secret of Kira's world. Gathering Blue is absolutely stunning in the concepts it presents; I'm certain that teachers will want to incorporate this powerful book into their reading curriculum. Along with Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli and Matilda Bone by Karen Cushman, Gathering Blue will be among the top contenders for next year's Newbery Award.
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on December 30, 2002
Like many readers, I was completely floored by THE GIVER. I had heard Lowry interviewed on NPR, and finding myself in a bookstore not long after, thumbed through the book-- and felt absolutely compelled to buy it. Reading that book I had to look up several times to wipe away tears, and look around at all the beauties of our own world that we so often take for granted-- like the color red-- singing-- and unconditional love.
Now, GATHERING BLUE did not have that impact for me. But it's a very good example of a YA novel with a smart, kind heroine in a world that is complex, often brutish, and all to human. Where the world of THE GIVER, we gradually discover, is technologically advanced but emotionally and psychologically regimented, even soul-destroying, the catastrophes have turned the world of GATHERING BLUE to a fierce hunter-gatherer society.
It's a world where deformed people are routinely abandoned to death at birth, and where children, or "tykes," are redistributed to other families should one parent die, where parenting is full of shouts and slaps (but also, we see in glimpses, some kisses and handholding) and where those who can't contribute or work in an obvious fashion are ruthlessly discarded.
For all that, however, it's a world more familiar to the reader than the world of THE GIVER, and somehow, a friendlier place. Perhaps because family units, however bickering, do exist, or because of the presence of a mischievous child named MATT who even has a pet dog, this world's harshness is less shocking. Everyone in the world is brought up with it, knows about, no secrets there.
There are secrets, however. Kira is accused by a Vandara, a woman who wants her land (Kira's cottage was burned after her mother's death from illness), but instead of being kicked out of the community, Kira is promoted to weaver/designer-- she has an unearthly talent for it. As in the world of THE GIVER, there are traces of magic in this universe. She is taken to live in "the edifice"-- a cathedral that has survived more or less intact from the war. Unlike the GIVER, there are clues that this is definitely our world. In the song the singer recites each year at the Gathering, which tells the story of mankind, he lists some names of places that exist no more-- and if you read carefully it's obvious that they are Bogota, Baltimore and Toronto. There is also clearly a cross in the Edifice. Nobody remembers what it signifies, but everyone remembers that it's important.
As in THE GIVER, however, being promoted for your talented is a mixed blessing. Just as in that world, having a talent is something that people in power find alluring, and the people in power, even when seemingly protective and kind, may not have your best interests at heart, or be telling you the truth.
The title refers to the search for woad, the plant that Kira could use to make blue threads-- blue is a color her own township no longer knows how to make.
Despite some startling revelations Kira makes a hard choice to work to improve her own society rather than choose a path that would be kinder to her and her crippled status. This is a great example for kids and for all of us.
I really liked this book and found a lot in it to ponder. It didn't sock me in the stomach like THE GIVER-- overall it was a more conventional dystopia-- but I enjoyed reading it. Oddly however some of the brutishness and coldness seemed harder to believe in-- I have trouble believing a society so clearly human would be able to resist forging stronger bonds of love and friendship than this society seems to. While it's true that in the middle ages people were more used to death, for example, it's also true from every piece of literature we have from every society everywhere that the altruistic impulse is very strong, as is the parental urge, and it's hard to believe that Kira's loving mother would have been as unusual as all that.
But these are quibbles. This is a worthy successor to THE GIVER. It's different and less timeless--I'd recommend the GIVER to everyone, whether or not they read YA or science fiction-- but I'd probably be more selective in recommending this. But it works quite well as a sort of fairy tale/parable. And I loved the reference to Jonas (not named) at the end. He appears to be in a neighboring town.
I'm guessing that Jonas' town, the one he escaped from, is the worst of all the societies in Lowry's futureworld. Looking forward to the sequel which will tie them all together.
Someone compared THE GIVER to 1984, and this book to PLANET OF THE APES. Actually I'd say in impact if THE GIVER were PLANET OF THE APES (and it's hard to remember now but the ending of that movie was a huge sucker punch) than this book is more like BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES. Less shocking, less horrifying, but still very, very interesting, and a quick read with an interesting heroine.
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on November 8, 2000
The Giver was my favorite book until I read Gathering Blue! This new book by Lowry is as intriguing as The Giver, and gives the reader more to think about. Science fiction is not my favorite genre, but these books are definitely an exception. Kira, the main character, is a likeable, compassionate young woman who is saved from death because of her talent for embroidery which she had learned from her mother. Matt, her friend is enjoyable in his naivity, but he definitly becomes a valuable friend. Thomas, the Carver, is interesting because of his artistry and background being so similar to Kira's. The theme of the artist as the predictor of the future is an interesting theme. This book explores the value that artist's bring to society, as well as, the importance of community and of love among humans. The idea of the artist being controlled by the state is interesting because of the many struggles our country has against/for censorship in the arts. I would recommend this book to young adults as well as adults.
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on November 18, 2000
Although I greatly admire the writing of Lois Lowry, I was disappointed with this book. It had a compelling premise and the potential to provide an interesting contrast to "The Giver". Unlike "The Giver", however, "Gathering Blue" raises questions that are not satisfactorily resolved in the conclusion of the story. At the end, the reader has ample evidence to doubt that the young characters will be able to bring about a new and brighter society for the brutish and morally challenged people in their community.
How long, for example, will it take for the authorities to discover that the young girl has obtained blue thread or the plant capable of producing the color blue? How patient will the authorities be when she begins to stitch a future different that the one they have in mind? How much discretion will the young boy have to carve out a new future on the Singing Stick? How long will it take the Council to discover and destroy the healing community?
Indeed, how long will it be before all three young people are deemed to be dispensible, and fall victim to the typical accident or illness? Of course, their special talents may give them some protection, but only until a creative replacement can be found. Consider, for example, the fate of the two women who created beautiful dyes. At the conclusion of the "The Giver", one has hope for the main character and his small charge. Escape was the only route for him, and his absence, the only hope for the society he left behind. In "Gathering Blue" one sees no real hope that the main character's decision to stay will result in anything other than a senseless and preventable death.
Plot elements seemed less well developed than is typical of Lois Lowry's work. For example, why are pages devoted to helping the 3 year old signal her older friends upstairs, when this is a lost element in the story? The idea of name syllables to denote age was a good one, but there are too few examples given to show how the names of the main characters might develop, and no examples of a four syllable man's name to provide any clues. The mystery of the children's talents is also not fully developed. Is magic involved? Moral superiority? A divine gift? Perhaps this is part of the storyteller's plan - to tell less than the reader wants to know. But so many unresolved questions ultimately interferred with my enjoyment of a book I truly wanted to like.
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on November 1, 2010
Who can gather the bluest of the blue in the place that is full of greyness, dark envy, and greed?

Kira, a crippled young weaver with an extraordinary skill at the art of embroidery, lives in a medieval-like, primitive, technology-free village full of casual cruelty and brutality. Her father was conveniently killed by "beasts", and her mother got sick and passed away, leaving Kira unprotected in this community. But instead of being cast to the beasts, the society's Council of Guardians installs her as a caretaker of the Singer's robe, a ceremonial garment embroidered with the scenes of human history and used at the annual Gathering.

Many dark secrets and hidden agendas unravel before Kira as she works on restoration of Singer's robe and learns how to prepare dyes from her teacher Annabella. But the only color that her society has no knowledge of - is blue.

The blue is the color Kira needs to restore the scenes of the past on the Singer's robe and to continue working on the scenes of the future. Kira needs to "gather blue", gather all her courage to shape the future by following her art, trusting what it "tells" her in its mysterious ways, trusting into the better future for her people.

Julia Shpak
Author of "Power of Plentiful Wisdom". Available on Amazon.
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VINE VOICEon February 5, 2004
This is another excellent book by Lowry. I had first read The Giver, which is also very good. This book gives a different perspective of the far future than The Giver but bears a lot of similarities. Where life in the Giver was all pleasant and happy, in this book, life is rough with everyone fighting each other for what they have. In both books, "undesirables," meaning the old, deformed, or infirm are eliminated from society.
As in The Giver, the main character is one who bears a special talent, which is needed to be able to pass on the long ago history of the society. In Gathering Blue, Kira, though born with a clubbed foot, is needed to because she has a special talent for sewing that is beyond what others have. She is tasked with restoring a coat that is to be worn by the singer at the annual gathering. Different sections of the coat depict different stories of society's history.
Kira encounters Thomas, a wood carver, who is tasked to repair the staff used by the singer and Jo, a young girl, who is being trained to eventually be the next singer when the current one will "disappear."
As in The Giver, the world seems to be devoid of color. Kira spends some of her days visiting with an old woman (Annabella) who has a talent for dying threads. Annabella instructs Kira how to take the dyes from various plants so that Kira can dye the threads to use for the singer's coat. One of the colors that Anabella doesn't teach Kira about is blue. So an important part of the book involves Kira getting the means to make blue and hence the title of the book.
After, Anabelle "talks" too much, Kira learns that she suddenly died and was taken to "the field." where people are brought after they die. Little by little, Kira starts to realize that all that she believed is a lie and she starts to piece together "the truth."
I finished this book in one sitting and my only complaint, as with The Giver, is that the book is too short. Also, it begs for a sequel. The Giver appears that it could take place at the same time as Gathering Blue, but in a different part of the world. Perhaps, Ms. Lowry's intention is to somehow write a sequel book that will bring both books together. I hope that Ms. Lowry continues to write these types of books because I highly enjoy them and see that see has a marvelous talent as a storywriter!
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on December 14, 2002
Gathering Blue is a book, that's great, but not for everyone. To start, I recommned that you read this book only if you are ten or older. Someone younger kids would probably not comphrehend the book that well. I also think you should read the Giver before you read this book. You might understand the theme of different communities more. This book is about Kira, a girl born with a twisted leg and fatherless. In Kira's community, fatherless, disabled children aren't useful and must be thrown to the field, a place where beasts supposdedly roam, waiting to gobble people down. But because of Kira's grandfather, a man of great power, Kira is able to stay alive. When her mother dies, Kira is almost killed, for being useless. But since she has a talent for threading, the powerful council of guardians spares her. They give her her own room, and an assingment. While her talent keeps her alive, Kira discovers secrets of the community in this suspensful book. I loved this book, but at the beggining, I was struggling to get through it. It's confusing and boring at the begginning, so if you don't like books with bad begginnings, then this book isn't for you. All in all, Gathering Blue is a great story or love, secrets, frienship and choices.
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on May 11, 2006
Lois Lowry is one of those unique authors who has won the John Newbery Medal for children's literature twice. Once for the first book in this trilogy and once for a book about the Holocaust called Number the Stars. (Just as an aside only one other author has ever done that Madeleine L'Engle who I would also recommend highly.) I would begin by recommending any of her books; they are all worth the time and the effort. This trilogy is set in a post apocalyptic world. The first two books each focus on different community's who have recovered from the devastation differently, both have strengths and both have weaknesses. And a young boy must heal them both and the land if either is to survive.

The Giver
Lois Lowry
Laurel-Leaf Books

Jonas is a young boy who lives in a community with a lot of technology and many rules about it. He has only seen an airplane twice for planes were not suppose to over fly villages, it was against the rules. Children of the same age are raised together and each December they move up a grade, when the reach the age of twelve they are selected for occupational training Jonas in talking to his friend states about selections: "Jonas Shrugged. It didn't worry him, how could someone not fit in? The Community was so meticulously ordered, the choices so carefully made." However all the other Twelve's were assigned and Jonas was skipped then at the end of the ceremony it was announced that he had been selected he was chosen to become the `receiver of memory.' He was to learn all the history and story of the people and become an advisor to the council that ruled the village. It only happened every so many generations and only 1 keeper of memories was installed in each village. Jonas and his family take in an infant who is not maturing and growing quickly enough. The child is given a year extension, when the child is marked to me replaced (abandoned and killed). Jonas takes the child and runs away. Through the winter Jonas knows he will not make it and pours all the memories he has learnt into the child. But can he save the child? What will happen to him and his community? Jonas thought his world was perfect, that the elders had everything under control, that there would never be war again. But also a world without choices. Till he is given the knowledge of the past the choice to save a child or let it die?

Gathering Blue
Lois Lowry
Laurel-Leaf Books

Kira, is an orphan and she has a twisted leg, she lives in a village with very little technology and one that casts aside those who do not contribute. The weak, injured, and helpless are abandoned. However things are starting to turn around for Kira, she has been spared by the all powerful Council of Guardians, for she has a gift she is a weaver and can die cloths in ways no other in the community can. As an artisan she is installed in the palatial Council Edifice and spends the whole year working her trade, her primary task is to care for the Robe of Remembrance that tell's the story of this community. But with her privilege comes expectations that she will do the council biddings. She befriends a young boy and his ragged dog, Matty `The Fiercest of the Fierce'. Matt tells Kira about another village where people are not cast aside, where they share their food. Matt brings her a gift the color blue, and a blind man that is her father. She is torn between staying and leaving the life she knows, and the truths she can find out what will happen.

Lois Lowry
Thomas Allen & Son

Matt has returned he is with Kira's father and living in the new community from beyond yonder. This village is guided by love and compassion, and guided by the `Leader' a seer arrived in this village one winter night many years ago on a sleigh with an older boy who did not survive the journey. The Seer can see the future and can often see for people what might be for his people. Matty is almost at the age where he will be named, he is hoping to be named `Messenger' for he takes message both in the village and to other villages which many can not do. But things are changing, the village is becoming hostile, starting to turn people away and the woods are becoming ferial and people are dieing. Can the Leader save the village, can the world be healed, what will happen to Kira, her father and Matty?

These three books will challenge you, after reading The Giver the first time I was overwhelmed and it haunted me for a long time. I went back and have reread it many many times. All three books raise questions about community, love, friendship, and care for other people. They also show dark paths that we as a people can go down, and how it can devastate all around us when we make the wrong choices for the wrong reasons.
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on October 22, 2000
Here's a touching novel with a great moral. Kira, the main character of Gathering Blue is a girl with a lame leg who lives in a future world that has a simple rule - all those who are weak must go. Somehow, Kira's mother saved her from the demise; but now that Kira's mother is dead, the first thing that happens to Kira is that she is accused of being lame and brought to the council of Guardians. Surprisingly, the Council saves Kira because of the special gift she has to make beautiful embroidery. Kira stays in a special room and discovers another child like her who also has a unique talent named Thomas. Kira, Thomas, and a younger boy named Matt together find the secret of their village. This is a great book for all teens.
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