Gathering Blue (Lowry)

Book Reviews
With characteristic grace, Lowry pulls her reader into this tale of a devastated world in which judgments are harsh and the dead are left to rot in the fields. Here we find Kira, her leg twisted from birth and her heart, impossibly, nourishing hope. Kira is in a struggle for survival, and the world she inhabits has been crafted with care. The narrative voice is compelling, and in the end, the reader is left with the satisfying sense that in the creation of beauty out of cruelty lies infinite potential. Those who appreciated The Giver will find here another readable, futuristic fantasy, set in a world of flaws and fortunes that bear contemplation in relevance to our own.
Children's Literature

This outstanding novel is set in a futuristic hunter-gatherer society in which primitive laws and barbaric custom hold sway. Fatherless thirteen-year-old Kira, almost killed at birth because of her twisted leg, was saved when her mother intervened. After her mother dies, Kira turns to the village's Council of Guardians for help when the village women try to kill her for her meager plot of land. The Council spares Kira because her extraordinary weaving talents will allow her to complete the ceremonial robe worn in the village's annual gathering by the village Singer. Kira is sent to live in the Council offices, where she meets Thomas, a young woodcarver using his exceptional skills to complete the Singer's staff, and Jo, a six-year-old being trained to take over the duties of the Singer. The three prodigies, however, soon begin to lose the joy they had previously taken in their gifts. As the annual gathering draws near, Kira and Thomas discover that their parents and Jo's might have died at the Council's hands so that the Council could control the children's remarkable talents. Lowry has created a world diametrically opposed to the technologically centered, rigidly structured world of The Giver. This title similarly leaves its young protagonist at a crossroads, and one hopes that Kira's story will continue. The author weaves in details that bring Kira's world to life as seamlessly as Jonas's in The Giver. Readers can see and feel Kira's excitement when she finally acquires the ability to make blue, a color that has eluded her people. This extraordinary novel is remarkable for its fully realized characters, gripping plot, and Lowry's singular vision of afuture in which technology does not predominate but has instead been essentially discarded.

After conjuring the pitfalls of a technologically advanced society in The Giver, Lowry looks toward a different type of future to create this dark, prophetic tale with a strong medieval flavor. Having suffered numerous unnamed disasters (aka, the Ruin), civilization has regressed to a primitive, technology-free state; an opening author's note describes a society in which "disorder, savagery, and self-interest" rule. Kira, a crippled young weaver, has been raised and taught her craft by her mother, after her father was allegedly killed by "beasts." When her mother dies, Kira fears that she will be cast out of the village. Instead, the society's Council of Guardians installs her as caretaker of the Singer's robe, a precious ceremonial garment depicting the history of the world and used at the annual Gathering. She moves to the Council Edifice, a gothic-style structure, one of the few to survive the Ruin. The edifice and other settings, such as the Fen—the village ghetto—and the small plot where Annabella (an elder weaver who mentors Kira after her mother's death) lives are especially well drawn, and the characterizations of Kira and the other artists who cohabit the stone residence are the novel's greatest strength. But the narrative hammers at the theme of the imprisoned artist. And readers may well predict where several important plot threads are headed (e.g., the role of Kira's Guardian, Jamison; her father's disappearance), while larger issues, such as the society's downfall, are left to readers' imaginationsn.
Publishers Weekly

Gathering Blue begins, a harsh, barbaric community of the future challenges the right of Kira to remain a part. Orphaned by the recent death of her mother, Kira has been cursed by a deformed leg and blessed by unsurpassed artistic talent. Facing the Council of Guardians, she pleads her case and finds an important role that plunges her deep into the heart of this enigmatic civilization. Lois Lowry, the consummate yarn-spinner, has deftly woven this cautionary tale so reminiscent of her Newbery tour-de-force, The Giver. She takes a bleak and colorless landscape, embroiders it richly with her storytelling prowess, and even treats us to an introductory spoken passage filled with insight into her thoughts and motivations for writing the story. Gathering Blue lends itself well to the medium of audiobook. The unusual-yet-familiar vocabulary used by the villagers can be recognized readily through the expert reading of actress Katherine Borowitz. The story is loquacious, mysterious, and thought provoking a must-have for young adults. The audio version is certain to be popular on circulation lists and with teachers. —Lisa Denton, J.S. Russell Junior High School, Lawrenceville, VA
School Library Journal

(Starred review.) Lowry is a master at creating worlds, both real and imagined, and this incarnation of our civilization some time in the future is one of her strongest creations.

Lowry returns to the metaphorical future world of her Newbery-winning The Giver (1993) to explore the notion of foul reality disguised as fair.... Readers will find plenty of material for thought and discussion here, plus a touch of magic and a tantalizing hint (stay sharp, or you'll miss it) about the previous book's famously ambiguous ending. A top writer, in top form.
Kirkus Reviews

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