Title: The Giver
Author: Lois Lowery
Status:According to the American Library Association, The Giver has been ranked as one of the most commonly challenged books in public and school libraries. In 1995, it was one of the three most commonly challenged books…More on that in a minute
Jonas lives in a very orderly community. It is governed by a group of elders. It has rules for everything. There is no war, or poverty, or pain. There are no worries about making the wrong choice since every person’s role in the community is decided. There are no choices to make. If someone breaks the rules 3 times, is unable to fit into the society, or has served their purpose and reached a certain age, they are then “Released” from the community.
It is in this world that Jonas has spent the past 12 years of his life. He has reveled in the sameness and is looking forward to being assigned his new role in the community. However, things begin to change once he has been assigned. You see, Jonas is the new “Receiver of Memories” for his community. It is now his job to receive and hold within himself all of the memories of the time before order. This means that Jonas gets to experience joy and happiness. It also means he must experience pain. Part of that pain, is understanding what it means to be “Released.”
Now, Jonas must break the rules to prevent the “Release” of a young child named Gabrielle. He and Gabe must leave the community to find what is “elsewhere”.
I personally thought that this was a beautiful coming of age story. When I was researching banned books, this one struck me because it was by one of my favorite children’s authors. I read all of the Anastasia Books growing up. This one was much deeper than those.
I am trying very hard not to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it, so it is very difficult to describe without giving anything away. For me, this was a story of growing up. Every child comes to a point where they realize that the world is bigger than just their family. What’s more, every child eventually comes to understand that adults lie.
One of the charges leveled against this book was that it glorified Communism. When I saw that, I wondered if the person challenging the book had actually read it all the way through. It is true that the community Jonas lives in is very Communistic, but Jonas rejects all of that. His character sees beyond the Community and seeks a life outside of it.
The book is also charged with containing sexual passages. I didn’t see anything like that. There is a brief paragraph in which Jonas discusses a dream he had that involved a female classmate. His parents see this as the beginning of what is termed the “stirrings” and he is promptly medicated to control those urges.
I think the hardest part with this work is placing it. I think that it is a bit too juvenile for high school students, but a little on the mature side for anyone under the age of 11.
More on the book’s status:
- The Giver was challenged in 1995 by a
parent in Franklin County, Kansas, on the grounds that it is “concerned with murder, suicide, and the degradation of motherhood and adolescence.” The book was removed from elementary libraries but remained available for classroom use at teachers’ discretion.
- In Wrenshall, Minnesota, a school board member
and two parents objected to the inclusion of The Giver on a list of books to be purchased for a high school, on the grounds of offensive language and objectionable themes. The school board approved the book but stipulated that parents would receive a list of books to be studied during the year.
- In Johnson County, Missouri, complainants charged that The Giver desensitized children to euthanasia and asked that the book “not be read in class to children under high school age.”
The book remains in the high school section of the K-12 library.
- A parent in Sidney, New York, publicly objected to the novel’s “usage of mind control, selective breeding, and the elimination of the old and young alike when they are weak, feeble and of no more use…” but did not file a formal complaint.
- A review committee in Brecksville, Ohio, recommended the removal of The Giver from an elementary library. Objections referred to infanticide and adult themes in the novel. The book was
- Somewhere in Oklahoma (no city given), a parent objected to the novel’s use of terms such as “clairvoyance,” “transcendent,” and “guided imagery,” because these are “all occult New Age practices the Bible tells us to avoid.” The review committee voted unanimously to retain the book but prohibited it from being read aloud in fourth grade. The committee also recommended that immature readers be discouraged from trying it, and that the librarian should make fewer copies available.
- Medford, Oregon: In the absence of a formal review policy, language arts teachers decided not to use the book in seventh grade classrooms after a parent complained of graphic descriptions of euthanasia.
- In 1994, The Giver was temporarily banned from classes by the Bonita Unified School District in LaVerne and San Dimas, California, after four parents complained that violent and sexual passages were inappropriate for children.
The book was restricted to students with parental permission at the Columbia Falls, Mont. school system in 1995 because of its treatment of themes of infanticide and euthanasia.