Reviews for Gathering Blue
Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 June 2000
/*Starred Review*/ Gr. 5^-8. In what might be described as a companion to The Giver (1993), Lowry once again brings readers to an alternative civilization and introduces a young person who will be entrusted to pass on its history. This time, though, she will have the opportunity to plot its future, too. Kira is lame and a recent orphan, so she is not surprised when she is brought before the Council of Guardians to justify her existence. Unexpectedly, she finds a champion who brings her to live in the Council Edifice, where her talent for embroidery and her intuitiveness make her the choice for an important job--repairing the robe of the Singer, who each year sings the history of the world, with the events meticulously embroidered on the robe he wears. At first Kira cannot believe her luck. She makes a friend, Thomas, who carves the Singer's wooden staff, and learns the delicate art of dyeing her threads from a crone who lives outside the village. She is even able to maintain her friendship with the sassy, loyal urchin Matt. Slowly, however, Kira begins to see that all is not right in her world. Lowry is a master at creating worlds, both real and imagined, and this incarnation of our civilization some time in the future is one of her strongest creations. The coarseness and brutality of the people, the abundance of the land's natural resources, and the intricacies of the society make this setting as rich as Kira's most glorious colors. There is richness in the characters, too, all of whom are detailed with fine, invisible stitches. Only the final bit of plotting falters: too much is disclosed too quickly, and answers to questions about how Kira will achieve her objective--to create a kinder future as reflected by her stitchings on the robe--are left as hints (perhaps this bodes well for a sequel). Lowry has clearly addressed the issue of what happens when a young person becomes disillusioned with society; it would be equally interesting to know how she thinks worlds evolve into better places. ((Reviewed June 1 & 15, 2000)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2001 Spring
In this 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. The thematic threads are not always woven as securely as they might be into the fabric of the story. However, the richly imagined story contains a number of good questions that will reward contemplation. Copyright 2001 Horn Book Guide Reviews
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2000 #5
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. Copyright 2000 Horn Book Reviews
Kirkus Reviews 2000 June #2
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 forhis 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 2000 Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2000 July #5
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 Fen the village ghetto and 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.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2000 August
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 MCNICOLL, Sylvia. Bringing Up Beauty. 204p. CIP. Stoddart. 2000. pap. $5.95. ISBN 0-7736-7479-9. LC C99-930791-6. Gr 4-6-A story of love, responsibility, growing up, and letting go. Elizabeth and her family have signed up as puppy trainers for Canine Vision Canada. It is their duty to teach an ungainly black Lab some of the elementary commands and behaviors she will need in order to become a guide dog, and most of the responsibility has fallen on Elizabeth. While she trains Beauty, the dog teaches her some useful lessons that help her deal with turning 13, finding and going beyond her first crush, and coping with loss. Elizabeth's voice is often too mature for a 12-year-old, and the story is sometimes overwritten. The real strength here is the bond that McNicoll develops between Beauty and Elizabeth. It is strong and heartwarming, resulting in an emotionally satisfying read.-Randi Hacker, Montgomery Elementary School, VT Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
VOYA Reviews 2000 October
This outstanding novel is set in a futuristic hunter-gatherer society in which primitive laws and barbaric custom hold sway. Fatherless thirteen-year-old Kira, almost killed at birth because of her twisted leg, was saved when her mother intervened.After her mother dies, Kira turns to the village's Council of Guardians for help when the village women try to kill her for her meager plot of land. The Council spares Kira because her extraordinary weaving talents will allow her to complete theceremonial robe worn in the village's annual gathering by the village Singer. Kira is sent to live in the Council offices, where she meets Thomas, a young woodcarver using his exceptional skills to complete the Singer's staff, and Jo, a six-year-oldbeing trained to take over the duties of the Singer. The three prodigies, however, soon begin to lose the joy they had previously taken in their gifts. As the annual gathering draws near, Kira and Thomas discover that their parents and Jo's mighthave died at the Council's hands so that the Council could control the children's remarkable talents. Lowry has created a world diametrically opposed to the technologically centered, rigidly structured world of The Giver (Houghton, 1993/VOYA August 1993). This title similarly leaves its young protagonist at a crossroads, and one hopes that Kira'sstory will continue. The author weaves in details that bring Kira's world to life as seamlessly as Jonas's in The Giver. Readers can see and feel Kira's excitement when she finally acquires the ability to make blue, a color that has eluded herpeople. This extraordinary novel is remarkable for its fully realized characters, gripping plot, and Lowry's singular vision of a future in which technology does not predominate but has instead been essentially discarded.-Leah J. Sparks. Copyright 2000 Voya Reviews