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Friday, May 25, 2012

Spotlight on Lois Lowry: Author

Just a few weeks ago, I had only read two of Lois Lowry's books -- probably the two that she is best known for, The Giver and Number the Stars.  I enjoyed both of them quite a bit, and decided at the beginning of May to check out some of her other work.  I'm very glad that I did!  I am happy to recommend each of these books to you:

A Summer to Die, 1977
Meg and her older sister Molly are very different people.  Now that they've moved to the country, they have to share a room -- not an easy thing to do.  Then one day Molly is rushed to the hospital.  Meg assumes her sister merely has a temporary illness, but after awhile, she realizes that something is very wrong with Molly.

Lowry's first book is a moving story about love and loss.  It is beautifully written, by someone who has experienced loss firsthand.  (Lowry's own sister passed away when she was a young woman.)  Though she wrote it over 30 years ago now (and there are a few minor passages in the book that seem outdated today), the story itself is timeless.


Anastasia Krupnik, 1979
Ten-year-old Anastasia is constantly writing things down in her notebook -- poetry, lists, and more.  Between problems with her teacher, boy troubles, and a new sibling on the way, she has a lot to write about!  Anastasia keeps an "I love" list and an "I hate" list in the book, but the items on them change frequently, depending on the day.

I loved this book, and it made me laugh out loud on several occasions!  Anastasia seemed very "real" to me.  I could picture a 10-year-old girl doing all the things that she does in the story.  In fact, I think that if I had read this book back when I was ten (it actually came out when I was 11), I would have felt an instant connection with her. 

Lowry has created an entire series around this fun character.  I haven't read these yet (I hope to soon), but the series includes: Anastasia Again! (1981), Anastasia at Your Service (1982), Anastasia, Ask Your Analyst (1984), Anastasia On Her Own (1985), Anastasia Has the Answers (1986), Anastasia's Chosen Career (1987), Anastasia at This Address (1991), and Anastasia Absolutely (1995).

Lowry has also written these books about Anastasia's little brother: All About Sam (1988), Attaboy Sam (1992), See You Around, Sam! (1996), and Zooman Sam (1999).


Autumn Street, 1980
When Elizabeth's father goes off to fight in World War II, she and her mother move into her grandfather's house in Pennsylvania.  While living there, she befriends the servant, Tatie, and Tatie's grandson, Charles -- a friendship that ultimately ends in tragedy.

I think this is probably my favorite of Lowry's books.  (At least, so far.)  It is a vivid, poignant tale that made my heart ache.


The One Hundredth Thing About Caroline, 1983
Caroline, an overly imaginative 11-year-old, is trying to learn about the Mystery Man in her apartment building, Frederick Fiske.  She discovers an opened letter of his in the apartment trash can,  and she reads it.  To her surprise, it is from an Agent, telling Mr. Fiske to "eliminate the children".  When Caroline finds out her mother is dating the Mystery Man, she and her brother J.P. worry that they will be the targets of a brutal crime.

This is a fun little mystery that kept me chuckling throughout!

Lowry has written two other books about these same characters, Switcharound (1985) and Your Move, J.P! (1990).


Number the Stars, 1989
I wrote about this book, which won a Newbery Medal, in a previous post.


The Giver Quartet:
The Giver, 1993
I also mentioned this Newbery Medal-winning book in a previous post.

Gathering Blue, 2000
This second book in the series could easily stand alone.  It doesn't seem to have anything to do with the story of The Giver -- until you read the book that follows.  It takes place in the future, during the same time period as The Giver, but in a very different Community.  Following some unnamed disaster known as the Ruin, the village in this book has reverted to a primitive, technology-free way of life.  

The story follows Kira, a newly-orphaned girl who has been lame in one leg since birth. Kira has good reason to fear that she will be cast out of the village, left in the Field to die, but then the society's Council of Guardians brings her to live in the Council Edifice, because of her embroidery skills.  They give her the task of restoring the historical pictures on the Singer's robe, worn by him every year at the Ruin Song Gathering.  Two other young artists have also been brought to the Edifice to live and work on their crafts -- Thomas the Carver, who carves pictures in the Singer's wooden staff, and Jo, the tiny girl being trained as the next Singer.  With the help of Kira's friend Matt, the three begin to learn that everything is not as it seems, that mysteries and secrets abound in their small village.

Messenger, 2004
This is the third book in The Giver Quartet, and is the story that links the two books above.  Matty (Matt from Gathering Blue) is now living in Village, a place not too far from Kira's home.  He has been taken in by the blind Seer, Kira's father.  The Leader of Village turns out to be Jonas, from The Giver.  It has long been the policy of Village to gladly welcome any outcasts from other communities... but now something sinister is at work, and things are changing.  Leader, Seer, and Matty must try to reverse these changes and save the Village they love.

Though I prefer The Giver to its companion books, I still appreciated the others.  Both kept me interested and eager to find out what would happen next.  I am also looking forward to the fourth (and supposedly final) book in the series, Son -- scheduled to come out in October 2012.


Looking Back: A Book of Memories, 1998
Filled with old photos and glimpses of her life,  this memoir shows how Lowry's past has inspired much of her writing.

I read this book after reading all the others listed here.  I found it to be a very interesting and insightful look into Lowry's life, and it made me appreciate her other books even more.  I also loved looking at all the old photos, watching the progression from little girl to mother and author.


Gooney Bird Greene,  illustrated by Middy Thomas, 2002
With the name Gooney Bird, this second grade girl can't help but be a little eccentric. Gooney Bird admits that she loves to be the center of attention.  Her classmates and teacher don't mind, though.  They are always ready to hear another one of her "absolutely true" stories, like "How Gooney Bird Came From China on a Flying Carpet".  In the end, Gooney Bird teaches the class that everyone has the makings of a good story inside them.

I thought this was a cute book, appropriate for a younger audience.  I liked the humor throughout, as well as Gooney Bird's many insights about storytelling.

There are four other Gooney Bird books that I haven't read yet, including: Gooney Bird and the Room Mother (2006), Gooney the Fabulous (2007), Gooney Bird is So Absurd (2009), and Gooney Bird on the Map (2011).


The Silent Boy, 2003
According to an author's note at the beginning of this book, Lowry found inspiration to write this historical novel through several old photographs she had in her possession... pictures of both family members and complete strangers.  

The narrator of this story, Katy, is the bright and curious daughter of a doctor, growing up in the early 1900's.  She is intrigued by other people, especially Peggy (a farm girl hired by Katy's parents to help with the housework) and Peggy's brother Jacob, a silent, gentle boy who loves animals and is "touched in the head".  She befriends them both, even though Jacob never once says a word to her (or anyone else).  When tragedy strikes, only Katy can unravel the mystery behind what really happened and why.

Lowry really brought these characters to life for me, and touched my heart with her story.


Gossamer, 2006
Littlest One, a small delicate spirit, is learning how to give dreams to humans.  She and her teacher, Thin Elderly, visit an old woman every night.  They touch items around the house and gather good memories to give back to the woman in her dreams.  But then the woman takes in an angry, troubled foster child, John.  The Sinisteeds, creatures who inflict nightmares on sleeping humans, invade the home.  Can Littlest One protect John from the bad memories of his past?

I thought this was an intriguing story idea, and, as always, I loved Lowry's poetic writing.


The Willoughbys, also illustrated by Lois Lowry, 2008
The Willoughbys -- Timothy, the twins Barnaby A and Barnaby B, and Jane -- are "old-fashioned children" who crave old-fashioned adventures.  Their mother and father are not very fond of them, and it seems the feeling is mutual.  When the parents take a trip and leave them behind with a nanny (never actually intending to return), the Willoughby children are happy to be rid of them.  At the end of the book, Lowry provides a Glossary, filled with words used throughout the story and her own amusing definitions.

I found this hilarious parody of many "old-fashioned" stories to be thoroughly entertaining.  The dark humor reminded me of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, and I cackled aloud at many of the tongue-in-cheek moments.


Crow Call, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, 2009

Lowry's first picture book is based on a memory from her own life.  Lizzie's father has just returned from serving in World War II, and she is getting to know him all over again.  One morning they go out into the woods, just the two of them, to hunt the crows that have been getting into farmers' crops.

When I first read that Lizzie and her father were going to go hunting, I was afraid I wouldn't like this story.  I should have known that Lowry would take the subject and turn it into something heartwarming!  Lizzie loves watching the crows they've come to hunt.  When her father sees that the thought of killing them distresses her, he never raises his gun, but merely enjoys spending the time with his young daughter.  Ibatoulline's beautiful illustrations complement the story perfectly.


The Birthday Ball, illustrated by Jules Feiffer, 2010
In this twist on the old "The Prince and the Pauper" tale, Lowry introduces us to Princess Patricia Priscilla, who will soon turn 16 and then be required to marry a nobleman.  Several (hideous) suitors have already been invited to her birthday ball.  The princess decides to disguise herself as a peasant for a few days (getting advice on being a commoner from her chambermaid) and attend school in the village.  There she meets the sweet and handsome school teacher, Rafe.  What will Rafe do when he discovers that his pupil Pat is really the princess?  And how will the princess decide which perfectly awful suitor to marry, when the only man she wants is Rafe?

This is such a fun fairy tale, filled with delightful word play and descriptions.  Though some of the plot was predictable, I wanted to keep on reading, just to see what would make me laugh out loud next!


Bless This Mouse, illustrated by Eric Rohmann, 2011
Hildegarde, the Mouse Mistress of Saint Bartholemew's Church, must keep all the other church mice safe and out of sight.  When a few of the mice are spotted by parishioners, Hildegarde and the others face  the dreaded Great X (pest exterminators).  To top it off, the ceremony called Blessing of the Animals is coming up, and soon the church will be filled with pets, including cats!

I prefer Lowry's other books to this one, but still thought it was worth the read.  I imagine it appeals more to younger readers than older ones (like me).

For more information about the author and her many books, please visit the Lois Lowry website.  Also, don't forget to look for Lowry's wonderful stories at your local library and in bookstores.


  1. I love Lois Lowry too, but I've only read the Giver (and companions) and Number the Stars. I didn't realize she had written SO many books!!

  2. I didn't realize she'd written so many, either, until I started looking for her work. What a talented author!