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5 things you didn’t know about ‘The Giver’ series

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Before the publication of “The Giver” in 1993, author Lois Lowry was known for her children’s books and contemporary, realistic fiction, especially “Number the Stars.” But with “The Giver,” things changed. The book was lauded by book critics and fans alike, and it won a 1994 Newberry Medal—but it was also the subject of controversy, as it was banned in a number of schools. Even so, in selling more than 10 million copies, Lois Lowry became best known for “The Giver.” Despite the book’s popular status, there are five things that might surprise you about the four-book series.

A photo still from 'The Giver' movie, which is due out in theaters August 15, 2014.
A photo still from 'The Giver' movie, which is due out in theaters August 15, 2014.Photo courtesy of Walden Media, used with permission

1. Lois Lowry was inspired to write the book by her mother and father

In writing a novel about a world where both pain and differences have been eradicated, Lowry took a radical departure from her earlier works. But her inspiration came from a personal moment. Both of her parents were in a nursing home. While her mother was frail, she still had all her memories, including the particularly painful one of losing Lowry’s older sister to cancer. But Lois’s father, whose memory was beginning to fail, didn’t remember his daughter’s death.

As Lowry recounted in an interview with the School Library Journal, “Driving back to the airport that day, I began to think about memory—how we use it, how painful it can be, yet how necessary. What if we could manipulate it? What if I could leave my mother with all those happy memories of puppies and picnics and take away the sad memory of the day her daughter died?”

2. Lowry doesn’t consider “The Giver” books science fiction

Even though her book series is set in a not-so-distant future (a year is never named), Lowry doesn’t necessarily consider them science fiction novels. That’s why she never felt the need to explain the technology, nor how color was removed from the world. It’s also the reason for why she didn’t explain the history of how all the societies came to be. She wrote the series under the presumption that the world had somehow changed, and her books are the story of how the world simply restarted.

3. Lowry’s usual editor didn’t edit the book

Walter Lorraine was always Lowry’s editor at Houghton Mifflin—that is, until “The Giver.” According to the author, Lorriane didn’t edit the book simply because it was nothing like anything else Lowery had ever written. Rather, two other editors worked on her manuscript. To date, this is the only time Lorraine hasn't edited Lowry’s work.

4. Lowry never planned to write a sequel or companion book

When Lowry wrote the ending to “The Giver,” she purposefully left it ambiguous. She never planned to have any follow-up books, but after the success of the first, she decided to write more stories set in the same world in the same time period: “Gathering Blue,” “Messenger” and “Son.” Of the sequels and companion books, she said, “It allowed me to tell MY version of 'what happened'. Actually, the new book, 'Messenger,' will very likely leave readers thinking about what might happen next as well. A good book always does that, I think: leaves you satisfied on one hand... answers a lot of questions... but also starts you asking new ones.”

5. “The Giver” is one of the most banned books ever—and one of the most critically lauded

With topics like euthanasia and storylines supposedly undermining motherhood, among other things, the book has been challenged and banned at libraries and schools throughout the country ever since its publication. For example, in the 1990s, the American Library Association listed the book as No. 11 on the top 100 of banned and challenged books.

At the same time, critics have—time and time again—listed it as one of the best books for children. While some schools have banned "The Giver," others have made it an important part of the curriculum.

The film version of Lois Lowry’s controversial, but critically-acclaimed book “The Giver” hits theaters on Aug. 15. Like the book, it’s sure to stir up plenty of public opinion.

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