Gathering blue

Lois Lowry

Book - 2000

Lame and suddenly orphaned, Kira is mysteriously removed from her squalid village to live in the palatial Council Edifice, where she is expected to use her gifts as a weaver to do the bidding of the all-powerful Guardians.

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Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

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 FenÄthe village ghettoÄand 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' imaginations. Ages 10-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-9-In Kira's community, people's cotts, or homes, are burned after an illness. After her mother dies suddenly, homeless Kira finds her former neighbors coveting the land where her cott once stood. They also resent that Kira, who was born with a deformed leg, wasn't abandoned at birth, in accordance with the society's rules. The Council of Guardians recognizes her skill at embroidery and lets her live in the Council Edifice, the one large old building left after the Ruin. Her job is to repair and restore the robe that the Singer wears during the annual Gathering that recounts the history of her community and to complete a blank section, which is to depict the future. When her young friend Matt journeys "yonder" and returns with the plants Kira needs to create blue dye and knowledge of a wider world, she pieces together the truth. The power-hungry Guardians have lied and manipulated the villagers in order to maintain their status. Kira is united with her father, whom she had believed was dead, but decides to stay at the Edifice until she embroiders a peaceful future on the robe. As in Lowry's The Giver (Houghton, 1993), the young protagonist is chosen by powerful adults to carry out an important task; through the exploration of this responsibility, knowledge grows, and a life-altering choice must be made. 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.-Ellen Fader, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review

(Intermediate, Middle School) Long rumored to be a sequel to the author's Newbery medal-winning The Giver (rev. 7/93), Lois Lowry's new novel, save for a teasing hint near its end, is instead more of a parallel speculation on the nature of the future of human society. Life in Kira's community is nasty, brutish, and, for the ill or disabled, short: those unable to make their own way are taken to the Field of Leaving to die. For some reason Kira is an exception. Born with a twisted leg, she has always thought her survival was allowed by the fierce protection of her mother, whose death begins the novel, and by the honored position of her late father, killed by beasts during a hunt. But when Kira survives an attempt by the other women to drive her out of the village and instead is given a comfortable position-and an important task-in the Hall of Guardians, readers gradually become aware of the secrets poised at the heart of the community, ones that hide a truth far darker than even the grim surface. Lowry's dispassionate style is all the more telling for its understatement, and the even pace of the narrative provides an effective counterpoint to the seemingly anarchic nature of Kira's world. While the book shares the thematic concerns of The Giver-most prominently, the importance of memory-it adds a layer of questions about the importance of art in creating and, more ominously, controlling community. Kira is a gifted weaver who has been given the task of restoring and extending the tapestry-story told on the ceremonial robe worn by the Singer during the annual presentation of the Song, a ritual enactment of human his-tory from creation through its cycles of prosperity and famine, peace and devastation. In the course of her work she meets Thomas, a young man who has been given the work of restoring and carving anew the staff the Singer holds to guide him through his long performance, and Jo, a little girl being taught the Song in order to follow the elderly Singer in his (as Kira discovers, to her horror) chained footsteps. The thematic threads are not always woven as securely as they might be into the fabric of the story; in particular, Lowry seems not to have completely worked out to what dark purposes the Guardians intend to put Kira (and Thomas). We know they want her to weave their version of history into the robe, but to what end? Still, the novel contains a number of good questions that will reward contemplation, and if the perhaps-sighting of The Giver's Jonas-or Gabriel?-in the end seems gratuitous, the book succeeds quite well in providing a satisfying story, richly imagined. r.s. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Lowry returns to the metaphorical future world of her Newbery-winning The Giver (1993) to explore the notion of foul reality disguised as fair. Born with a twisted leg, Kira faces a bleak future after her mother dies suddenly, leaving her without protection. Despite her gift for weaving and embroidery, the village women, led by cruel, scarred Vandara, will certainly drive the lame child into the forest, where the "beasts" killed her father, or so she's been told. Instead, the Council of Guardians intervenes. In Kira's village, the ambient sounds of voices raised in anger and children being slapped away as nuisances quiets once a year when the Singer, with his intricately carved staff and elaborately embroidered robe, recites the tale of humanity's multiple rises and falls. The Guardians ask Kira to repair worn historical scenes on the Singer's robe and promise her the panels that have been left undecorated. Comfortably housed with two other young orphans--Thomas, a brilliant wood-carver working on the Singer's staff, and tiny Jo, who sings with an angel's voice--Kira gradually realizes that their apparent freedom is illusory, that their creative gifts are being harnessed to the Guardians' agenda. And she begins to wonder about the deaths of her parents and those of her companions--especially after the seemingly hale old woman who is teaching her to dye expires the day after telling her there really are no beasts in the woods. The true nature of her society becomes horribly clear when the Singer appears for his annual performance with chained, bloody ankles, followed by Kira's long-lost father, who, it turns out, was blinded and left for dead by a Guardian. Next to the vividly rendered supporting cast, the gentle, kindhearted Kira seems rather colorless, though by electing at the end to pit her artistic gift against the status quo instead of fleeing, she does display some inner stuff. 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. (author's note) (Fiction. 11-13) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

"Mother?" 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 leavetaking, 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 suddenly 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. Copyright (c) 2000 by Lois Lowry Excerpted from Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.