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  • Gathering Blue
  • Written by Lois Lowry
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Gathering Blue

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On Sale: July 01, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7393-7980-6
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Lois Lowry’s Gathering Blue continues the quartet beginning with the quintessential dystopian novel, The Giver, followed by Messenger and Son.

Kira, an orphan with a twisted leg, lives in a world where the weak are cast aside. She fears for her future until she is spared by the all-powerful Council of Guardians. Kira is a gifted weaver and is given a task that no other community member can do. While her talent keeps her alive and brings certain privileges, Kira soon realizes she is surrounded by many mysteries and secrets. No one must know of her plans to uncover the truth about her world and see what places exist beyond.

From the Paperback edition.



There was no reply. She hadn't expected one. Her mother had been dead now for four days, and Kira could tell that the last of the spirit was drifting away.

"Mother." She said it again, quietly, to whatever was leaving. She thought that she could feel its leave taking, the way one could feel a small whisper of breeze at night.

Now she was all alone. Kira felt the aloneness, the uncertainty, and a great sadness.

This had been her mother, the warm and vital woman whose name had been Katrina. Then after the brief and unexpected sickness, it had become the body of Katrina, still containing the lingering spirit. After four sunsets and sunrises, the spirit, too, was gone. It was simply a body. Diggers would come and sprinkle a layer of soil over the flesh, but even so it would be eaten by the clawing, hungry creatures that came at night. Then the bones would scatter, rot, and crumble to become part of the earth.

Kira wiped briefly at her eyes, which had filled with tears. She had loved her mother, and would miss her terribly. But it was time for her to go. She wedged her walking stick in the soft ground, leaned on it, and pulled herself up.

She looked around uncertainly. She was young still, and had not experienced death before, not in the small two-person family that she and her mother had been. Of course she had seen others go through the rituals. She could see some of them in the vast foul smelling Field of Leaving, huddled beside the ones whose lingering spirits they tended. She knew that a woman named Helena was there, watching the spirit leave her infant, who had been born too soon. Helena had come to the Field only the day before. Infants did not require the four days of watching; the wisps of their spirits, barely arrived, drifted away quickly. So Helena would return to the village and her family soon.

As for Kira, she had no family, now. Nor any home. The cott she had shared with her mother had been burned. This was always done after sickness. The small structure, the only home Kira had ever known, was gone. She had seen the smoke in the distance as she sat with the body. As she watched the spirit of her mother drift away, she had seen the cindered fragments of her childhood life whirl into the sky as well.

She felt a small shudder of fear. Fear was always a part of life for the people. Because of fear, they made shelter and found food and grew things. For the same reason, weapons were stored, waiting. There was fear of cold, of sickness and hunger. There was fear of beasts.

And fear propelled her now as she stood, leaning on her stick. She looked down a last time at the lifeless body that had once contained her mother, and considered where to go.

Kira thought about rebuilding. If she could find help, though help was unlikely, it wouldn't take long to build a cott, especially not this time of year, summerstart, when tree limbs were supple and mud was thick and abundant beside the river. She had often watched others building, and Kira realized that she could probably construct some sort of shelter for herself. Its corners and chimney might not be straight. The roof would be difficult because her bad leg made it almost impossible for her to climb. But she would find a way. Somehow she would build a cott. Then she would find a way to make a life.

Her mother's brother had been near her in the Field for two days, not guarding Katrina, his sister, but sitting silently beside the body of his own woman, the short-tempered Solora, and that of their new infant who had been too young to have a name. They had nodded to each other, Kira and her mother's brother in acknowledgment. But he had departed, his time in the Field of Leaving finished. He had tykes to tend; he and Solora had two others in addition to the one that had brought about her death. The others were still small, their names yet of one syllable: Dan and Mar. Perhaps I could care for them, Kira thought briefly, trying to find her own future within the village. But even as the thought flickered within her, she knew that it would not be permitted. Solora's tykes would be given away, distributed to those who had none. Healthy, strong tykes were valuable; properly trained, they could contribute to family needs and would be greatly desired.

No one would desire Kira. No one ever had, except her mother. Often Katrina had told Kira the story of her birth–the birth of a fatherless girl with a twisted leg–and how her mother had fought to keep her alive.

"They came to take you," Katrina said, whispering the story to her in the evening, in their cott, with the fire fed and glowing. "You were one day old, not yet named your one-syllable infant name–"


"Yes, that's right: Kir. They brought me food and were going to take you away to the Field–"

Kira shuddered. It was the way, the custom, and it was the merciful thing, to give an unnamed, imperfect infant back to the earth before its spirit had filled it and made it human. But it made her shudder.

Katrina stroked her daughter's hair. "They meant no harm," she reminded her.

Kira nodded. "They didn't know it was me."

"It wasn't you, yet."

"Tell me again why you told them no," Kira whispered.

Her mother sighed, remembering. "I knew I would not have another child," she pointed out. "Your father had been taken by beasts. It had been several months since he went off to hunt and did not return. And so I would not give birth again.

"Oh," she added, "perhaps they would have given me one eventually, an orphan to raise. But as I held you–even then, with your spirit not yet arrived and with your leg bent wrong so that it was clear you would not ever run–even then, your eyes were bright. I could see the beginning of something remarkable in your eyes. And your fingers were long and well-shaped–"

"And strong. My hands were strong," Kira added with satisfaction. She had heard the story so often; each time of hearing, she looked down at her strong hands with pride.

Her mother laughed. "So strong they gripped my own thumb fiercely and would not let go. Feeling that fierce tug on my thumb, I could not let them take you away. I simply told them no."

"They were angry."

"Yes. But I was firm. And, of course, my father was still alive. He was old then, four syllables, and he had been the leader of the people, the chief guardian, for a long time. They respected him. And your father would have been a greatly respected leader too had he not died on the long hunt. He had already been chosen–to be a guardian."

"Say my father's name to me," Kira begged.

From the Paperback edition.
Lois Lowry|Author Q&A

About Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry - Gathering Blue

Photo © Bachrach

“As a child, I was always writing lists and keeping journals—much like Anastasia does. Today, I still do these things. I guess I’ll always be like Anastasia; I’m still a kid at heart.”—Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry has twice won the prestigious Newbery Medal for Number the Stars and The Giver. In Gathering Blue, the compelling companion to The Giver, Lowry transports young readers to another futuristic society.


Whether she’s writing comedy, adventure, or poignant, powerful drama—from Attaboy, Sam! and Anastasia Krupnik to Number the Stars and The Giver—Lois Lowry’s appeal is as broad as her subject matter and as deep as her desire to affect an eager generation of readers. An author who is “fast becoming the Beverly Cleary for the upper middle grades” (The Horn Book Magazine), Lois Lowry has written over 20 books for young adults and is a two-time Newbery Medal Winner.

Lois Lowry was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, and attended junior high school in Tokyo, Japan. Her father was a dentist for the U.S. Army and his job entailed a lot of traveling. Lowry still likes to travel.

At the age of 17, Lowry attended Brown University and majored in writing. She left school at 19, got married, and had four children before her 25th birthday. After some time, she returned to college and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Maine.

Lois Lowry didn’t start writing professionally until she was in her mid-30s. Now she spends time writing every single day. Before she begins writing a book, she usually knows the beginning and end of her story. When she’s not writing, Lowry enjoys gardening during the spring and summer and knitting during the winter. One of her other hobbies is photography, and her own photos grace the covers of Number the Stars, The Giver, and Gathering Blue.

Lois Lowry has four children and two grandchildren. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


A Companion to The Giver

—A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year


—A Newbery Medal Winner
—An ALA Notable Book for Children
—An ALA Best Book for Young Adults
—A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
—A Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Book
—A Booklist Editors’ Choice
—A Regina Medal Winner


—A Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Book of the Year


—An ALA Notable Book for Children
—An International Reading Association Children’s Book Award
—A School Library Journal Best Book for Spring


—A Boston Globe–Horn Book Award


—A Newbery Medal Winner
—An ALA Notable Book for Children
—A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
—An American Bookseller Pick of the Lists


—An ALA Notable Book for Children


—An American Bookseller Pick of the Lists


—An IRA–CBC Children’s Choice


—An ALA Notable Book for Children

Author Q&A

Q. When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
A.I can’t remember ever not wanting that.

Q. What was the hardest part about writing this novel? What was the best part?
A.This novel wrote itself pretty easily. It has a linear narrative . . . one thing leads to the next in a fairly straight line . . . and for me that is the easiest kind of story to write.

Q. What was your inspiration for writing Gathering Blue? Did you have any strong influences?
A.I simply hadn’t stopped thinking about the future after I wrote The Giver. There were a lot of unanswered what if s, and for a writer, that means a book begins taking shape. There are still some what nexts in my mind, and I am planning a third book to go with the first two.

Q. What is the significance of the title?
A.Originally I intended to call it The Gathering, which seemed a perfect title (given the fact that there is actually a ceremony called The Gathering in the book) and would make a good companion title to The Giver. But then I discovered that Virginia Hamilton had written a book called The Gathering. It seemed discourteous . . . though it wouldn’t have been illegal . . . to use the same title. So Gathering Blue was a second choice, but I like this title.

Q. In what way is 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.
Q. The starred review in Booklist states: ÒThere is a richness in the characters, too, all of whom are detailed with fine, invisible stitches.Ó Where did you get the ideas for these characters? Are they based on people in your life?
A.All book characters come from people you have known or seen or wondered about. But none of the characters in Gathering Blue are based on individuals. They all draw on characteristics of various people. Even people in books. Kira, in Gathering Blue, for example, could be Meg, from my 1977 book A Summer to Die: a solitary, introspective, creative girl on the brink of adulthood, forced to grapple with tough things, finding her own inner resources. I simply set her down in a different set of circumstances.
Q.You seem to have so much knowledge of threading and the different dyes. How did you do the research for the different ways of threading and dyeing? Do you have some experience with this?
A.I got several books on this subject and did my research that way. I found it quite fascinating, though I didn’t actually try making dyes myself. Later I gave the books to the young girl, Erica, who posed for the cover photo, because she thought she might like to try it.

Q. Why does Kira decide to stay in the village to continue her threading for the Singer’s Robe? Did you ever consider having her leave?
A.It seemed important to me that Kira play a role in shaping a peaceful future for the world. Running away from what needed change wouldn’t have given her that opportunity. It could be argued that Jonas did that . . . ran away. I don’t think so, though. I think he fled in order to bring about change. Kira stays for the same reason.

Q. Do you have a favorite character from Gathering Blue? Who and why?
A.I’m very fond of Matt and will probably bring him back in a third book that completes the trilogy. For all his foolishness, he has a great heart and a lot of courage, I think. And he’s still young. I would like to see what Matt becomes when he gets older.
Q. Compare this future society you have created with our present-day society. Do you see any similarities or differences?
A.Self-interest is, sadly, part of our lives today. Political leaders put their own goals ahead of the good of the people. Wealth amassed by a few, while the masses live in poverty . . . you can see that in many places. Subjugation of women, and brutality toward the weak: think of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
Yet always there are those . . . like Kira . . . who emerge as potential leaders, with a gift for peace and a spirit of benevolence. Those are the people we must watch for and nurture and support. The blue that she holds in her hands at the end of the book is simply a symbol. The blue to be gathered can take many different forms in today’s world.

From the Trade Paperback edition.



“Lowry returns to the metaphorical future world of her Newbery-winning The Giver to explore the notion of foul reality disguised as fair. . . . Readers will find plenty of material for thought and discussion here. . . . A top writer, in top form.”–Kirkus Reviews, Starred

“Lowry has once again created a fully realized world full of drama, suspense, and even humor. Readers won’t forget these memorable characters or their struggles in an inhospitable world.”–School Library Journal, Starred

A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

From the Paperback edition.

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