Happy Belated Birthday!
So, I goofed up and thought Lois Lowry's birthday was the 21st. It isn't; it's the 20th. I feel pretty bad about missing it because, as a child, I loved Lois Lowry. I have a tendency to read difficult books. If it's about racism, or terrible historic events like the Holocaust, or everyone you like dies, I'm probably going to read it. I mean, I'll follow it up by reading a guilty pleasure like any of the Sookie Stackhouse books. Because I need a brain cleanse and nothing that happens in the Stackhouse books actually matters. They're like pickled ginger for your brain and that's what is so great about them. That and Eric Northman; he's the true star.
Lois Lowry is the exact opposite of pickled ginger. I remember reading Number the Stars as a child and being somewhat devastated. It was my first experience reading about the Holocaust. Annemaire, a ten-year-old, and her family help hide the Rosens, a Jewish family, from Nazis who have taken over Copenhagen. Allowing the Rosens to seek refuge in their home is a huge risk for Annemarie's family. Since it is told from the perspective of a child, and meant for young children, the reader is shielded from most of the atrocities of World War II, but you get the idea that things were pretty terrible. Looking back, both Annemarie and Ellen were pretty brave for ten-year-olds. Like, when I was ten, I was doing stupid kid stuff like putting on roller skates then tying myself to my friend's bike so they could pull me just to see what would happen* or attempting to cut my own bangs.
Lois Lowry was also my first introduction to my favorite genre: the dystopian novel. I love reading about worlds that have gone down the toilet. The Giver is essentially 1984 for children. The Giver takes equality to a whole new, creepy level. Everyone is literally the same. No emotions, no memories, no terrain, no climate. Nothing; it sounds pretty awful. Jonas, the twelve-year-old protagonist, is next in line to be the keeper of all the old memories and emotions and stuff. It's a heavy job for a kid. And he's not in to it at all. At first, his trainer, known as the Giver, gives him memories of rainbows and whatnot, then progresses to memories of famine and war. Things escalate quickly and Jonas makes a plan to escape. The plan becomes more dangerous when he decides to take a baby with him. As we all know from watching The Walking Dead before we completely gave up on The Walking Dead, having a baby in tow makes things one thousand times more difficult. Their fate is left unresolved until Lois Lowry finally released sequels many years later. Sequels that I have not read, but have added to my list.
Lois Lowry won well-deserved Newberry Medal for both books. They're both brilliant and tackle pretty heavy subjects in a kid-friendly way because they're told from the perspective of a kid. Jonas' story totally prepared me for Winston's story when I was old enough to understand it. Much like my girl Judy B, Lois Lowry is a transition author. She's great for those readers who are ready for more adult subjects, but don't need to dive in head first. If you've not read her, you should.
*In case you're wondering, here's what happens: your friend rides their bike really fast and it's fun for about twenty seconds. Then you hit a small pebble and, being on roller skates, you immediately eat it and your friend continues to drag you behind their bike for a while and you end up with road in your leg. Your shins will be garbage for the rest of your life. Don't do it.