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Gossamer Paperback – January 8, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-7–A lonely old woman and John, a troubled boy, connect and gain renewed feelings of optimism and friendship in this lovely story by Lois Lowry (Walter Lorraine Books, 2006). The title character, initially named Littlest One, is a dream-giver—one of the tiny creatures who bring good dreams to humans and animals. The inquisitive creature is first taught by Fastidious but drives the cranky teacher mad with her constant questions and humorous hijinks. Thin Elderly takes over Littlest's training and they successfully concentrate on the old woman and the boy. By touching objects in the house that belong to each character, the dream-givers absorb happy memories associated with those items and bring these remembrances into the people's dreams. The dream-givers polar opposites, the terrifying Sinisteeds, are after John, who is in foster care because of an abusive home life. It is up to Littlest to protect John from the potentially permanently damaging nightmares that he is given by the Sinisteeds. Anne Twomey is a superb narrator for this imaginative and dreamy story. She easily conveys the old woman's patience and gradual understanding of what the boy has experienced in his unhappy life. Listeners can hear the gradual lessening of John's anger in Twomey's voice. Her pacing is superb, and she has a wonderful ability to convey the lightness and yet gravely vital personalities of the dream-givers. An excellent recording of an intriguing novel.–B. Allison Gray, John Jermain Memorial Library, Sag Harbor, NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Gr. 5-8. Littlest One is a delicate, invisible spirit who is in training to be a dream-giver, learning to blend fragments of happy memories with fragile details of daily life for people as they sleep. She helps a tormented foster child at night, bestowing healing memories in his dreams. He remembers a button, a broken seashell on a shelf, a book left open, images that fight the sinister Hordes that torment him with nightmares of his father's vicious abuse. Lowry's plain, poetic words speak directly to children about the powerful, ordinary things in everyday life, such as the boy's memory of a baseball game ("the curved line of stitches on the ball and then the high thwacking sound of the hit"); the feel of his dog's silky, warm fur; and the thump of the dog's tail against the floor. Pair this fantasy with Valerie Worth's All the Small Poems (1995) and with Katherine Paterson's realistic novel, The Great Gilly Hopkins (1978), about an abused child in loving foster care. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Yearling; Reprint edition (January 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385734166
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385734165
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (165 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #69,633 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lois Lowry is known for her versatility and invention as a writer. She was born in Hawaii and grew up in New York, Pennsylvania, and Japan. After several years at Brown University, she turned to her family and to writing. She is the author of more than thirty books for young adults, including the popular Anastasia Krupnik series. She has received countless honors, among them the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, the California Young Reader.s Medal, and the Mark Twain Award. She received Newbery Medals for two of her novels, NUMBER THE STARS and THE GIVER. Her first novel, A SUMMER TO DIE, was awarded the International Reading Association.s Children.s Book Award. Ms. Lowry now divides her time between Cambridge and an 1840s farmhouse in Maine. To learn more about Lois Lowry, see her website at

author interview

Q. When did you know you wanted to become a writer?

A. I cannot remember ever not wanting to be a writer.

Q. What inspired you to write The Giver?

A. Kids always ask what inspired me to write a particular book or how did I get an idea for a particular book, and often it's very easy to answer that because books like the Anastasia books come from a specific thing; some little event triggers an idea. But a book like The Giver is a much more complicated book, and therefore it comes from much more complicated places--and many of them are probably things that I don't even recognize myself anymore, if I ever did. So it's not an easy question to answer.

I will say that the whole concept of memory is one that interests me a great deal. I'm not sure why that is, but I've always been fascinated by the thought of what memory is and what it does and how it works and what we learn from it. And so I think probably that interest of my own and that particular subject was the origin, one of many, of The Giver.

Q. How did you decide what Jonas should take on his journey?

A. Why does Jonas take what he does on his journey? He doesn't have much time when he sets out. He originally plans to make the trip farther along in time, and he plans to prepare for it better. But then, because of circumstances, he has to set out in a very hasty fashion. So what he chooses is out of necessity. He takes food because he needs to survive. He takes the bicycle because he needs to hurry and the bike is faster than legs. And he takes the baby because he is going out to create a future. And babies always represent the future in the same way children represent the future to adults. And so Jonas takes the baby so the baby's life will be saved, but he takes the baby also in order to begin again with a new life.

Q. When you wrote the ending, were you afraid some readers would want more details or did you want to leave the ending open to individual interpretation?

A. Many kids want a more specific ending to The Giver. Some write, or ask me when they see me, to spell it out exactly. And I don't do that. And the reason is because The Giver is many things to many different people. People bring to it their own complicated beliefs and hopes and dreams and fears and all of that. So I don't want to put my own feelings into it, my own beliefs, and ruin that for people who create their own endings in their minds.

Q. Is it an optimistic ending? Does Jonas survive?

A. I will say that I find it an optimistic ending. How could it not be an optimistic ending, a happy ending, when that house is there with its lights on and music is playing? So I'm always kind of surprised and disappointed when some people tell me that they think the boy and the baby just die. I don't think they die. What form their new life takes is something I like people to figure out for themselves. And each person will give it a different ending. I think they're out there somewhere and I think that their life has changed and their life is happy, and I would like to think that's true for the people they left behind as well.

Q. In what way is your book Gathering Blue a companion to The Giver?

A. Gathering Blue postulates a world of the future, as The Giver does. I simply created a different kind of world, one that had regressed instead of leaping forward technologically as the world of The Giver has. It was fascinating to explore the savagery of such a world. I began to feel that maybe it coexisted with Jonas's world . . . and that therefore Jonas could be a part of it in a tangential way. So there is a reference to a boy with light eyes at the end of Gathering Blue. He can be Jonas or not, as you wish.

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

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#22 in Books > Teens
#22 in Books > Teens

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 67 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on May 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Lois Lowry is my comfort blanket. When you pick up a Lois Lowry book (and it really doesn't matter if it was "Anastasia Krupnik" or the book I will discuss with you now) you are blessed with the knowledge that this book will fufill the following requirements: It will be good. It will be interesting. It will be wholly original. Lowry has never tapped into our subconscious oddities quite like other authors (like Diana Wynne Jones) have. She doesn't need to. Her books are perfectly thought out little worlds. If you are lucky, they may have some fantastical elements to them, but rather than stand out from the text these elements are as natural as can be. Lowry makes you believe in a kind of real-world magic. And no book better illustrates that idea than the remarkable little, "Gossamer". A comfortable amalgamation of the fantastical and the all-too real, it's one of those rare stories that can claim to have both grit and charm.

An old woman lives with her dog, all by herself, in a two-story house. Unbeknownst to her, she is visited nightly (as are we all) by creatures that make us their business. In this particular case, two such creatures have visited the old woman. One is an old hand at the work they are going to do. The other is known simply as Littlest One. She is sprightly and curious and filled to brimming with questions. By night, these creatures gather the memories they find attached to objects around the home and create dreams out of them. These they bestow to the residents of the home. Only now, the old woman is taking in a foster child for a time. An angry eight-year-old boy with an abusive past and who's dark thoughts prove irresistible to the Sinisteeds.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By B. Claypole White on September 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
My 11 year old son and I listened to Gossamer driving to and from school. But then we couldn't bear to leave the story behind, so spent the rest of the afternoon huddled around the tape deck. What an enchanting coming of age story. Yes, there is darkness and violence, but such feeling of hope. I cried through the last chapter. Wow. This is an incredible book. And beautifully read by Ms Twomey. I was especially drawn to the idea that so much can be experienced through touch. Seems to me it's the sense most writers underplay. And the writing is so simple, yet so powerful. I would give Gossamer more than 5 stars if I could.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Puzzler on April 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be very good, but John's nightmares of being abused by his father are somewhat graphic, and certainly not appropriate for all readers. He dreams of his father making him eat dog food and smearing his face in it as a 2 year old, and of his father repeatedly hitting his mother. I really liked the book, but one should be aware of its graphic content in places. Still, a very good read!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By KidsReads on May 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Without a doubt, Lois Lowry's books stand out when compared with some of the other fare on contemporary bookshelves --- and thankfully Lowry has been recognized for it. In 1990, she won her first Newbery Medal for NUMBER THE STARS, a fictionalized account based on the true story of how a group of Christians in Denmark saved their Jewish neighbors from persecution during World War II. She received her second Newbery Medal in 1994 for THE GIVER, probably her most well-known book to date. Now comes another book that is so beautifully written and so poignant in message that its sure-to-be glowing reception just might give new meaning to the expression "three time's the charm."

GOSSAMER tells the story of a group of mythical creatures (for lack of a better expression to describe them) who are responsible for the creation and distribution of dreams. After being assigned to various households by their leader, Most Ancient, the creatures settle into their roles as dreamweavers by acquainting themselves with objects in the house (photographs, articles of clothing, trinkets on a bureau) that contain significance and memories of the owners. After they have gathered enough meaningful fragments, the dream-givers combine them to create a story, or dream, to bestow onto the sleeping inhabitants. This process is, in fact, how dreams are born.

So, too, are nightmares created by the evil Hordes, who attempt to undo all the good that the dream-givers impart by banding together to flood their victims' subconscious with dark and stormy thoughts. If enough insidious nightmares are inflicted upon these sleeping individuals, their waking hours can become increasingly negative and damaging until they no longer can remember how to be happy and at peace.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Enlightened on July 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This was my first Lois Lowry book. I read it in one evening. Once I started it, I couldn't put it down. She is an amazing author and this story was like, to me, a fairy tale I wish could come true. As someone who suffers wtih nightmares regularly, from past traumas, I found myself so absorbed in the book and related to it so much. As someone else said, it was difficult to learn of the little boys past abuse, but this story found a way to overcome that and take us all to a hopeful and happy place. A few days later I read The Giver. Lowry is truly an amazing author and has a wonderful imagination that is so easy to relate to. I can't wait to read more of her books.
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