Pittsburgh Friends Meeting Library

“A Leading to Read”
A regular column by the Library Committee reviewing books in the Meetinghouse Library
GATHERING BLUE by Lois Lowry. Reviewed by Nancy E. James
Lois Lowry’s young adult novel Gathering
Blue is described on the cover as “A Companion to The Giver,” the author’s 1994 Newbery Award Winner. The Giver was reviewed in this newsletter in June 2009 and was the first book discussed by our Meetinghouse book club. Both novels imagine future societies resulting from worldwide disaster and destruction. Both feature young protagonists chosen for special roles in passing on the oral history of their communities.
In The Giver, a young man is selected to be trained as the next Receiver of Memory. In Gathering Blue, an orphan girl named Kira is called to assist the Singer in his annual recitation of the community’s history. In both fictional worlds, apparent orderliness and harmony exist because of rigid standards enforced by rulers who suppress individuality, sometimes through cruel means.
In Kira’s world most people are poor and must struggle for a living.
Those who are physically unable—or otherwise troublesome—usually do not survive. Kira was born with a deformed leg and must walk with a stick, but she has a gift that saves her: she can embroider beautiful designs on fabrics. Kira’s mother, Katrina, has nurtured Kira’s skill and taught her how to make dyes for the threads from flowers, leaves and roots. The one color for which they have no supplies—and the one for which Kira longs—is the blue of a clear summer sky.
When Katrina dies suddenly, Kira is taken from her home and her job as weavers’ assistant and is installed by the Guardians in the Council Edifice. Her work now is to repair the robe that the Singer wears in the annual ceremony and to refurbish the intricate embroidered pictures that guide him in his recitation. These scenes tell the story of the world from its beginning, through the period when proud cities were burned and destroyed, up to the present time. Kira’s next task will be to sew new pictures across the now blank shoulders of the robe, depicting the story of the future— according to the Guardians’ instructions.
In the Edifice Kira is well cared for, with nourishing food, water for bathing, and everything she needs for her artistic work. She meets a new friend, a young man whose role is to repair the Singer’s carved wooden staff, which also embodies the visual story of the community. But on the day of the ceremony, Kira understands that she and other artists—including the Singer himself—are virtual slaves. She discovers other shocking truths, not only about the Guardians but also about the fates of her parents.
And she is faced with a decision about her own future.
Lois Lowry creates this fictional world with simple but telling strokes. The ending of Gathering Blue leaves us wondering what will become of Kira and her friends, who include a self‐assured but caring little boy named Matt and a delicate little girl chosen to become the next Singer. Apparently their story continues in another “companion” novel, Messenger, advertised inside the back cover of this book.
Note: Anyone may write a review for “A Leading to Read,” as long as the book is—or will be—in our Meeting library. (Book donations are always welcome!) If you are interested in reviewing a book, please contact Nancy James.
The holdings in our Meeting library can be checked from your computer at home at
http://www.librarything.com/catalog/PittsburghFriendsMtg

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