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Written by Lois LowryAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Lois Lowry

· Ember
· Trade Paperback · Ages 9-12 years
· August 22, 2006 · $9.99 · 978-0-385-73253-6 (0-385-73253-8)

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A group petitions Village to close its borders to outsiders and the once-open society, guided by Leader, who has the Power to See Beyond, is threatened by the evils of exclusion. When Matty, a boy with Healing Power, is sent to post signs at the borders, he faces the evil forces of the Forest, and must decide whether it is now time to use his power to rescue his community.


Lois Lowry has written over 20 novels spanning several genres. Her Anastasia Krupnik series, set in contemporary Boston, follow with poignant humor the exploits of Anastasia (a precocious adolescent), her younger brother Sam, and their artistic parents. Books like Rabble Starkey and A Summer to Die focus on families and crisis, and examine the strength and love that bind them together. Number the Stars, Lowry’s first work of historical fiction and a Newbery Medal winner, is set during the Holocaust. The Giver, Lowry’s first work of fantasy, is now joined by its companion novels, Gathering Blue and The Messenger.

q & a with the author

Q. The practice of Trading in the book has an ominous, shadowy feeling. Is the dark side of Trading a comment on today’s commercial society?
Of course it is. All of us, even the best of us, make terrible choices because of our yearning for things. Not too long ago I bought a second home. Does anyone really need more than one home? Of course not. What could I have done with that (rather large) amount of money? Plenty of good things for deserving, even for suffering, people. But instead I bought a second home. And all of us do that to some degree or another.

Q. Does Messenger close the sequence of companion books beginning with The Giver and followed by Gathering Blue? What do you hope these books, taken as a collection, communicate?
I intended Messenger to be the concluding book in the trilogy, connecting the people, ending things for them, with Matty’s death and an implied future joining Jonas/Leader and Kira. But already I am getting lots of letters asking me to follow Gabriel next. He’s only eight in Messenger and appears only on one page. I suppose I could take up with him, eventually, but at the moment I am working on other projects.


classroom connections
questions for group discussion

COMMUNITY–How does the government of Village promote a sense of community? Diversity is very important to the inhabitants of Village. Discuss with students how a diverse community creates a better understanding of mankind. What is Matty’s role in the community? Debate the strengths and weaknesses of the community. Which character is the greatest threat to the community spirit of Village?

SECRETS–Many of the people from Village came from communities that were built around secrets. Why does Leader believe that secrets cause sadness? How does he promote an open society? Discuss the relationship between secrets and ignorance. How is Matty bothered by the fact that he has a secret? Why is it important that he keep his secret?

POWER–Have students discuss the meaning of power. What is the power in Matty’s gift? How is Matty troubled by his power? Why does Leader warn Matty to be careful how he uses his gift? Describe the Blind Man’s power. How does his power and wisdom guide Matty? What does Seer mean when he says, “Our gifts are our weaponry?” (p. 155)

FEAR–Discuss with students the significance of the Forest that surrounds the community. Why does Forest evoke fear in the people? Debate whether the Blind Man is referring to fear or Forest when he tells Matty, “It’s all an illusion.” (p. 5) How did fear drive the people of Village away from their original homes? Discuss how Seer and Leader depend upon one another to deal with their fears.

connecting to the curriculum

LANGUAGE ARTS–Lowry uses figurative language to create specific images. For example, “In the place called Beyond, Leader’s consciousness met Kira’s, and they curled around each other like wisps of smoke, in greeting.” (p. 163) Locate other similes in the novel.

The people who weren’t born in Village had their own story of coming there. Select a character from the novel and write a short story about that character’s journey to Village.

SOCIAL STUDIES–Discuss the concept of a town meeting. Have students reenact the Village meeting where a small group, led by Mentor, is trying to close the border of the community. Ask for volunteers to be speakers at the meeting. Make sure that both sides of the issue are represented. Matty isn’t allowed to speak because he hasn’t acquired his real name. Suppose there is an exception to the rule, and Matty is allowed to speak. Ask someone in the class to speak as Matty.

PERFORMING ARTS–Anthems are written to express the patriotic feelings for a nation, and sometimes for a community. Look at several anthems, and study the thoughts and feelings that shape the lyrics. Write the lyrics for an anthem for Village, and set it to the tune of an appropriate piece of music.

using the companion novels together

The Giver, Gathering Blue,
and Messenger are companion novels. Discuss the difference between a companion novel and a sequel. Talk about the similarities and differences in the three novels. Debate whether The Giver and Gathering Blue are companion novels, and Messenger a sequel to the other two books. Ask students to write a letter that Kira, the main character in Gathering Blue, might write to Jonas, the main character in The Giver, where she tells him the frightening truths that she discovers about her community. Likewise, write a letter that Leader in Messenger might write to Kira explaining why she needs to return to Village with Matty. Share the letters in class.

pre-reading activity

Define utopia and dystopia. Ask the class to brainstorm the virtues of each type of society. Then, instruct students to write a short story set either in a utopian or a dystopian society. Encourage them to share their stories in class. Gathering Blue is set in a diverse society where citizens are allowed thoughts, feelings, and to live freely (if often chaotically), whereas The Giver is set in a society that regulates everything from emotions to procreation. The society in Messenger is founded on the premise that any persons seeking refuge should be accepted into their community, no matter their shortcomings, but this open-minded attitude is threatened when some citizens decide they would be better off closing their borders. Ask students to use books in the library or sites on the Internet to research the basic tenets of a democracy. Ask for volunteers to debate the following topic: “Democracy: A Utopia or a Dystopia.”

classroom connections
questions for group discussion

COMMUNITY–Have students describe how the communities in The Giver and Gathering Blue are similar. What are their primary differences? Discuss why Jonas, the Blind Man, and Matty feel forced to leave their communities. Village in Messenger was created out of selflessness. Contrast selflessness and selfishness. How are the efforts to close the border a selfish act? Discuss the potential dangers to the community.

FEAR–Jonas understands fear in The Giver and, in Messenger, establishes Village as a place where others can come to escape their fears. Explain the fear that Leader is feeling when the citizens of Village vote to close the borders. In Messenger, Matty learns that Forest is a “tangled knot of fears and deceits and dark struggles of power.” (p. 168) Ask student how might Forest be symbolic of the communities in The Giver and Gathering Blue?

HOPE–Debate whether the people in The Giver and Gathering Blue understand the meaning of hope. How do Jonas, Matty, and the Blind Man represent hope in Messenger? At what point are these three characters almost stripped of hope?

COURAGE–Jonas in The Giver and Matty in Gathering Blue live in communities that thrive on control, and “sameness.” What gives Jonas and Matty the courage to leave their communities? Debate with students whether the courage of the “new people” in Messenger is driven by hope or fear.

FEELINGS–Jonas wasn’t allowed feelings in The Giver. Now as Leader of Village, he encourages people to express their feelings. Describe his feelings for Matty. How does Seer get inside the feelings of Leader? Have students compare Matty’s feelings for Jean in Messenger to his feelings for Kira in Gathering Blue. Contrast Leader’s feelings as he looks over Village in Messenger to his feelings when he left his community in The Giver.

FAMILY–Ask students to define family from the point of view of the following characters: Jonas in The Giver, Kira, Matt, and Thomas in Gathering Blue, Matty, Jean, and Seer in Messenger. How might Matty describe his newly acquired family in Messenger to Kira?


“Lowry [writes] with a beautiful simplicity rooted in political fable, in warm domestic detail, and in a wild natural world, just on the edge of realism.”
Starred, Booklist


The Giver
Lois Lowry
Fear • Courage • Friendship
Truth • Freedom
Grades 7 up / 0-385-73255-4
Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Gathering Blue
Lois Lowry
Fear • Courage • Friendship
Truth • Freedom
Grades 7 up / 0-385-73256-2
Delacorte Books for Young Readers


about the novels
of Lois Lowry

The protagonists in these companion novels deal with fear, power, and secrets, but somehow they gain the courage to defy the evils of their controlling world. Lowry makes a provocative statement about community and freedom.


Prepared by Pat Scales, Director of Library Services, South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, Greenville, South Carolina, and Gary D. Schmidt, Director of English, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Click here to download the Teacher's Guide PDF


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