LEARNING ABOUT LOIS LOWRY

Compiled by: Toni DiNuzzo, Joan Moran, Heidi Pedersen, and Chris Yurgelonis with Kay E. Vandergrift in Young Adult Literature



BIOGRAPHY

Lois Lowry was born March 20, 1937 in Hawaii to Robert and Katharine Hammersberg. Her father was an Army dentist and the family lived all over the world. She attended Brown University, but left after her sophomore year to get married and raise a family of four children. They settled in Maine, where she returned to college and received her degree from the University of Southern Maine. Lois Lowry fulfilled a childhood dream when she began writing in the mid-1970's. Now divorced, she lives in West Cambridge with her dog, Bandit, and spends weekends in her 19th century farmhouse in New Hampshire.

ABOUT HER WRITING

Lois Lowry, author of over 20 novels and winner of the Newbery Medal twice, is a woman to be taken seriously. This native of Hawaii has become a favorite of both children and young adults. She has tackled a number of topics in her literature including adoption, mental illness, cancer, the Holocaust and futuristic societies. Whatever the theme, Lowry portrays realistic life experiences to her audience.

In her books, Lois Lowry throws her characters and readers into many thought-provoking situations. The contemporary young adult reader is compelled to confront society with all of its imperfections. Lois Lowry told Contemporary Authors that she measures her success as an author by her ability to "help adolescents answer their own questions about life, identity and human relationships."

BIBLIOGRAPHY OF LOIS LOWRY'S WORKS

Novels

A Summer to Die. Boston. MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1977.
Find a Stranger, Say Goodbye. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1978.
Anastasia Krupnik. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1979.
Autumn Street. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1979.
Anastasia Again! Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1981.
Anastasia at Your Service. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1982.
Taking Care of Terrific. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1983.
Anastasia Ask Your Analyst. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1984.
Us and Uncle Fraud. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1984.
One Hundredth Thing About Caroline. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1985.
Anastasia on Her Own. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1985.
Switcharound. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1985.
Anastasia Has the Answers. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1986.
Rabble Starkey. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1987.
Anastasia's Chosen Career. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1987.
All About Sam. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1988.
Number the Stars. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1989.
Your Move J.P.! Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1990.
Anastasia at This Address. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1991.
Attaboy, Sam! Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1992.
The Giver. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1993.
Anastasia, Absolutely. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1995.
See You Around Sam! Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.

Other

Black American Literature. Portland: ME: J. Weston Walsh, 1973. (textbook)
Literature of the American Revolution. Portland, ME: J. Weston Walsh, 1974. (textbook)
Newbery and Caldecott Acceptance Speeches. Audiocassette. Weston, CT: Weston Woods, 1990.
A Visit with Lois Lowry. Video. Color, 19 Minutes. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
Haggerty, Brian A. A Teaching Guide for Lois Lowry's Number the Stars. Menlo Park, NJ: Addison-Wesley, 1995.
"Fade," "The Road Ahead," and "The Woods at the End of Autumn Street" are short excerpts from her books. Published in textbooks by Heinemann.
Values and the Family. Portland, ME: Weston Walsh, 1977.
Frederick H. Lewis. Here in Kennebunkport, Photos by Lois Lowry. Brattleboro, VT: Durrell, 1978.
Author of introduction, Frances H. Burnett, The Secret Garden. New York: Bantam, 1987.

MANUSCRIPT COLLECTION

Lois Lowry Papers-1977-1993 Kerlan Collection, University of Minnesota. Contains 2.5 linear feet. Includes manuscripts of The Giver, Number the Stars, Rabble Starkey,and A Summer to Die, among others.

BOOK REVIEWS

FIND A STRANGER, SAY GOODBYE.

Summaries

Natalie has had a wonderful seventeen years. She has everything a teenage girl could want; good looks, brains, a cute boyfriend, a sister she gets along with, college acceptance and great parents. There's only one mystery in her life. She's adopted and wants to know who her "real" mother is.

The summer after her high school graduation, she embarks on a journey of discovery. Although her parents are reluctant, they give her whatever information they have to help her in her search. She does find her "mother" and another member of the family, that leaves a lasting impression on her. Natalie's past is now joined with the present. This helps her see her own life and future plans through more mature eyes.

The characters in, Find a Stranger, Say Goodbye, are all very nice. Maybe too nice. The relationships have very little conflict. Natalie is a very likable teenager, who has reached a level of maturity most parents only dream about. Her search for her birth mother is touching, but the lack of major obstacles make the quest seem too easy. Lowry allows her readers to experience the emotional side of adoption from three different perspectives; the childless couple, the adopted child, and the birth mother. This is a great plus for anyone interested in the whole picture.


"The author of A Summer to Die, a capable writer, is totally at ease with the topical novel; once again she is thoroughly au courant.. But the attractiveness of the characters and the tidiness of the plot constitute the weakness of the book;" From: Heins, Ethel L. Rev. of Find a Stranger, Say Goodbye, by Lois Lowry. The Horn Book Magazine. June, 1978: 258.
"This is a great, sensitive book that I would recommend it to anyone." From: Review of Find a Stranger, Say Goodbye, by Lois Lowry. Internet Public Library Youth Division (11 Dec. 1995): 1pp. America Online. Internet. 7 February. 1996.

THE GIVER.

Summaries

It is the future. There is no war, no hunger, no pain. No one in The Community wants for anything. Everyone is provided for. Each Family Unit is entitled to one female and male child. Each member of The Community has their profession carefully chosen for them by the Committee of Elders, and they never make a mistake. Jonas, a sensitive twelve year old boy, had never thought there was anything wrong with his Community, until one day. From the moment Jonas is selected as the Receiver of Memory at The Ceremony, his life is never the same. Jonas discovers that The Community is not as perfect as it seems. Although they appear to have everything, they are missing something of great importance. It is up to Jonas, with the help of the Giver, to find what long ago had been lost. And so, Jonas embarks on an adventure to save the world as he knows it.

Simply and beautifully written, The Giver is sure to touch the heart of every reader. Lois Lowry deals with issues of everyday life that are so often taken for granted. Through the noble character of Jonas, she presents a glimpse of what could be the future. As the tension in the novel mounts, so does the number of questions that Lowry confronts the reader with. One can not help but grapple with their intense significance. The Giveris a book of courage and adventure, and most importantly, one of deep thought. Once readers make contact with Lowry's treasure, they may never see things exactly quite the same. Lowry presents a forceful novel that demands to be heard and philosophically dealt with.

"Lowry is once again in top form - raising many questions while answering few, and unwinding a tale fit for the most adventurous readers." From: Review of The Giver, by Lois Lowry. Publishers Weekly. 15 February. 1993: 240.
"... The Giver, a powerful and provocative novel, is sure to keep older children reading. and thinking." From: Ray, Karen. Review of The Giver, by Lois Lowry. New York Times Book Review. 31 Oct. 1993: 26.

NUMBER THE STARS.

Summaries

Set during the German occupation of Denmark in 1943, Annamarie Johansen's world is turned upside down when the Germans begin to "relocate" the Jews. Through the eyes of this ten year old, the reader is taken into a frightening world where ordinary citizens become heroes. Annamarie's family assumes responsibility for Ellen Rosen, Annamarie's best friend, when Ellen's family flees for their safety. Later Annamarie becomes a participant in the daring scheme to smuggle the Rosens and other Jews to Sweden - and safety.

Annamarie learns to understand why her Dad once said that he would die to protect his King. Loyalty, friendship, courage, and humanity are some of the major themes in this story. Lowry has taken adult themes and put them into a child's perspective. There is none of the real horror of the Holocaust in the story. The alternative to the failure of the scheme is not spelled out. However, the reader brings his/her imagination to the alternatives and even children might sense the potential consequences in the event the plan fails. This story would be an excellent companion to classroom units on World War II.

"While the novel has an absorbing plot, its real strength lies in its evocation of deep friendship between the two girls and of a caring family who make a profoundly moral choice to protect others during wartime." From: Wilms, Denise. Rev. of Number the Stars. by Lois Lowry. Booklist. March,1989: 1194.
"Some of the details in Number the Stars are very telling: the Germans' brutal search for hidden Jews the handkerchief treated with rabbit's blood and cocaine to put the guard dogs off their scent, the mutual pride between good King Christian and his people." From: Milton, Edith. Rev. of Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry. New York Times Book Review. 21 May 1989: 32.

A SUMMER TO DIE.

Summaries

Meg and Molly have the typical adolescent sister relationship. More often than not, they do not get along, to the point where Molly draws a chalk line down the center of their bedroom. Then Molly got sick.

At first, Meg was told it was some kind of flu. Molly was given special treatment at home and Meg was not thrilled with all the extra attention Molly was given. As the summer went on, Meg realized Molly was a lot sicker than she had been told. Molly ends up in the hospital and that is when Meg realizes that Molly will never be coming home. She has leukemia.

Meg relies on her friendship with Will, their 70 year old neighbor, who teaches Meg a lot about life and death, while Meg teaches him photography. Meg also befriends the new neighbors, a "hippie" couple about to have their first child. Meg is invited to take pictures of the home birth and learns more about life through that event.

Make sure the tissue box is close at hand when you read this novel. Loosely autobiographical, Lowry writes with compassion and understanding of a difficult topic, the death of a sibling. Lowry's older sister died of cancer, although she was older than the character in the book when she passed away.

We felt that A Summer to Die dealt with death for adolescents in a way that would make them comfortable with the topic. Death is not the only thing this book is about. Life is also an important theme throughout the entire novel. Molly does die, but there is new life all around Meg in the form of Ben and Maria's baby. There were also the wildflowers that Will showed to Molly.

This book is a coming-of-age for Meg, who could not stand her prettier, more popular sister at the start. As the summer wanes, Meg is learning that their differences aren't all that large and starts to get along with Molly. Before they really have a chance to become friends, Molly dies. That is the saddest part of the whole novel. I would highly recommend this for the young adult reader, especially as a first novel about death. It presents it in a gentle way, so as not to scare them. You will feel Meg's sorrow as if it were your own, but you will also feel her hope and healing as she realizes life will go on.

"the book is memorable as a well-crafted reaffirmation of universal values. A remarkable first novel." From: Review of A Summer to Die, by Lois Lowry. The Horn Book Magazine. August 1977: 451.
"only by cherishing life is it possible to learn to accept death. A sincere and graceful appeal to the idealist in all of us." From: Milton, Joyce. Rev of A Summer to Die, by Lois Lowry. New York Times Book Review. 18 Sep. 1977: 40.

AWARDS

A Summer to Die.
Children's Literature Award, International Reading Association, 1978.
Autumn Street.
American Library Association Notable Book Award citation, 1980.
Anastasia Again!
American Book Award Nomination (juvenile paperback category), 1983.
Rabble Starkey.
Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, Golden Kite Award, Society of Children's Book Writers, and Child Study Award , Children's Book Committee of Bank Street College, 1987.
Number the Stars
Newbery Medal, National Jewish Book Award, and Sidney Taylor Award, National Jewish Libraries, 1990.
The Giver.
Newbery Medal, 1994.

WORKS ABOUT LOIS LOWRY

"Lois Lowry." Internet Public Library. (11 Dec. 1995): 3pp. America Online. Internet. 6 Feb. 1996.
"Lois Lowry." Something About the Author. Ed. Donna Olendorf & Diane Telgen. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, Inc., 1993, pp.
"Lowry, Lois." Contemporary Authors. Ed. Susan M. Trosky. Detroit: Gale Research, Inc., 1994, pp..
Smith, Amanda. "PW Interviews: Lois Lowry." Publisher Weekly. 21 Feb. 1986: 152-153.
Zaidman, Laura M. "Lois Lowry." Dictionary of Literary Biography. Ed. Glenn E. Estes. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1986,
For additional information on Lois Lowry


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Created February 10, 1996, Last updated September 20, 1996