Excerpted from Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry. Copyright © 2002 by Lois Lowry. Excerpted by permission of Laurel Leaf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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.
1. Discuss what gave Katrina, Kira’s mother, the courage to stand up to the people of the village and spare Kira’s life, when the custom in Kira’s society was to destroy babies born with birth defects. Do you think Katrina was aware of her daughter’s gift? Katrina never created the color blue. Do you think she knew that her daughter would someday find the secret of creating blue?
2. At the beginning of the novel, Katrina dies and Kira is left homeless. Kira is fearful, especially when Vandara, a vicious and angry woman, tells her that she is worthless. Discuss the strength Kira displays when she faces the Council of Guardians. How does Kira show strength and courage throughout the novel?
3. Discuss the way children are treated in Kira’s society. What is the difference between abuse and neglect? How is Matt both abused and neglected? What is his role in the story? How does Matt contribute to Kira’s growth as a person and an artist?
4. Vandara is known throughout the village. “People whispered about her. She was known, and respected. Or feared.” (p. 15) How can someone who is feared be respected? Discuss whether the women of the village fear Vandara more than they respect her. How do you know that they don’t really agree with Vandara regarding Kira’s fate?
5. What qualities determine the difference between skill and art? Debate whether Katrina was a skilled weaver or an artist. At what point in the novel does Kira display the true qualities of an artist?
6. Why is the history of the people called the Ruin Song? The scenes on the Singer’s Robe represent Ruin, Rebuilding, Ruin Again, and Regrowth. How does this symbolize the history of our world?
7. Kira has always been told that beasts killed her father. When Kira tells Jamison that Annabella says there are no beasts, he replies, “She’s very old. It’s dangerous for her to speak that way.” (p. 128) Do you think Annabella knows the truth about Kira’s father? Discuss whether Jamison is responsible for Annabella’s death.
8. Matt is concerned that Kira might be held captive at the Council Edifice. How is it that he has a better understanding of the meaning of captivity than Kira does? Debate whether Kira and Thomas, the young carver, are indeed held captive even though they are allowed to roam. At what point does Kira realize that she isn’t really free?
9. What do Kira, Thomas, and Jo have in common? Interpret the following statement: “They were forcing the children to describe the future they wanted, not the one that could be.” (p. 212)
10. At the end of the novel, Matt brings Christopher, Kira’s blind father, to meet her. How does meeting her father alter Kira’s concept of her purpose in life and her contribution to her society’s future?
Prepared by Pat Scales, Director of Library Services, South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, Greenville