by Lois Lowry
LOIS LOWRY CONTINUES to create a unique world in her second volume of The Giver quartet. In Gathering Blue, she intricately weaves a society wrought with poverty, where savagery, greed, and deceit prevail, and the weak are mercilessly shunned and discarded.
Kira, born physically flawed, is destined for abandonment in the Field of Leaving. By the fierce protection and love of her mother, she marginally escapes this heartless custom. When her mother unexpectedly falls ill, she finds herself orphaned and in danger of an envious woman named Veranda who seeks to steal her home and leave her to the “beasts.” Kira’s dangerous confrontation with Veranda brings her before the all-powerful Guardians – enforcers of their justice system. Seemingly kind, the Guardians remove her from her rundown home to live under their protection at the Council Edifice, where she is expected to use her skills to do their bidding.
Separated from her home with only the mysterious Guardian Jamison for supervision, Kira's loneliness is abated when friendships blossom with the other artists in residence. Thomas, a young carver who works on the intricate symbols engraved on the Singer's staff, and Jo, a three-year girl with the voice of an angel being trained as the next Singer.
Blessed with an inexplicable and almost magical gift with embroidery, Kira is given the task of restoring the beautiful sceneries of their world’s past on the Singer’s robe. But, she lacks the knowledge to create the missing color blue. With the help of a mischievous boy named Matt and his little companion dog Branch, Kira at last finds the plant that will allow her to create the blue dye. And with this knowledge, she also discovers a far greater secret about her family, the forbidden truth at the heart of the Ruin Song, and the courage to transform the future in her art and creativity.
Gathering Blue doesn’t have the same intensity as The Giver. There are sprinkles of excitement for Kira’s plight and intrigue for the subtle reveal of this world’s secrets. However, the burden of success that Kira shoulders in the creation of the blue thread and the repair of the Song robe seem less urgent. Despite this, I do feel that Gathering Blue is an important piece in the quartet, and that Messenger and Son will continue to tantalize and satisfy.
Digression: As a designer, I find Ms. Lowry’s naming system very creative and fun. As each of the characters in the book matures, they gain another syllable in their name. That would mean my names could be: Lo, Lonna, LonnaBelle, and LonnaBella. What would your names be? Please share them in the Comments.