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some comments from readers

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 21 February 2007
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from Gail:

At age 57 I am about to graduate from library school, with a license to be a school librarian. For a current assignment, I must write something about "Number the Stars" and thus I found your website and your blog. I have read your comments regarding censorship of books for children because of isolated words or complex ideas. For my paper on Number the Stars, I have chosen the words, "Can't we just walk, like civilized people?" some of the first words spoken by Ellen. I connect "civilization" or "civilized" with freedom--the freedom to read thoughts that make us think. The freedom to put in libraries books that will expand the minds of our children, our future. I am also reminded of words spoken by the president of Spain in 2005 when the Spanish parlement passed a law permitting gay marriage, adoption by gay couples and equal rights. The president's words were in response to criticism from the Catholic right. He said that gay people were not "the other"; they are our brothers, sisters, etc. By passing this law, he explained, this is the way we treat people in civilized society, in a democracy. We live in a civilized society. Standing up for books that use impolite words or that present complex ideas, that look at painful situations, this is how we act in a civilized society.
Thank you for your books, for stretching the minds of our children.

Thank you for becoming a librarian, Gail. The world needs more of you!

from Silvia:

Hi. I've just finished "The Giver", could you please tell me if there is a movie?, my first language is Spanish, and when I read a book in English I like to find out if there is a movie. thank you.

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more on censorship

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Sunday, 18 February 2007
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This from a reader:


I think I can pretty well confirm for you that "The Giver" has not been challenged in Canada, either in schools or public libraries. I'm no expert but I have tracked a lot of challenges over the past few years. I find the American conservative idea that somehow their children need to be "protected" from certain ideas and books hard to swallow. I work part time at the Pelham Public Library where I came up with the idea of having a "banned book club." Fearing calls, my boss cautioned me to call it "Freedom to Read." I am also a divinity student heading into ministry in the church. You may find my support (and my encouragement) of the right to assess materials without censorship a little strange. However, people do not grow without being confronted with many ideas. As we censor ideas that we don't like for other people, we also remove the opportunity for them to judge and discern on their own.


Of course the whole issue is in the front of the news again because of this year's Newbery winner, which I have not read so I don't feel qualified to comment, really. But I do have an email today from a retired teacher who reminds me that he wrote me back in 1986, when he was teaching fourth grade, about the use of a "bad word" in the first Anastasia book. (He didn't have a problem with it, read in context.) Of course the controversial word in today's news is not an expletive but a body part...a word my own grandsons, now 6 nd 8, have known and used since they first began pointing to their own parts as toddlers and being told what each part was called, from "nose" on down to "toes" and everthing in between. So it's a litle hard to see what all the outrage is about. But I must read the book.

I am in Maine, where 16 inches of snow fell last Wednesday, and where tonight the wind chill is predicted to be 13 below zero. On the day of New England's snowstorm, I was headed by bus to New York and the trip, ordinarily 4 hours, took over 6. But at least I got there, missing one meeting because of my late arrival but able to make my other commitments in the next couple of days. Ordinarily I love being in Manhattan; I lived in New York as a teenager, went to high school there, and just roaming the city is always a pleasure for me. But not when it is bitter cold, with ice and slush everywhere!

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from NYC

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 14 February 2007
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I am writing this in a hotel room in New York. With a storm descending on New England last night and this morning, I almost cancelled my trip here...and in fact cancelled my 5 PM meeting here....then when, in the AM, it didn't appear to be too awful, decided to come ahead, by bus. (recommendation, incidentally: the wonderful Limo-liner which goes between Boston and New York, a real luxury bus, with lunch served by an attendant, internet access, comfortable leather seats). What is ordinarily a 4-hour ride took six because the driver was cautious and safe...so I arrived too late to make the 5 PM meeting anyway. But I can keep my appointments tomorrow and Friday, and use my theater ticket tomorrow night.

This posting from Blog reader Kelsey:

The Giver remains one of my favorite books. I first read it in a children's lit class about ten years ago. I am eyeing the boxed set to send to a family friend out in Nebraska. She is about to turn twelve and I think she is approaching an age where the trilogy will give her a lot to think about. Over the summer I used the book in a banned books presentation during a course on school library project development. I think some of the messages are so relevant to issues our country struggles with today. What kinds of personal freedoms are we willing to sacrifice to allow our government to keep us safe?

I'm glad she mentioned the boxed set of the Giver trilogy, because it does make a terrific gift and also (not many poeple know this!) contains a folder poster of three maps of the three communities. I drew the maps, and had to re-read the books carefully in order to do so. Even so, young readers...very meticulous..might find mistakes. Feel free to let me know! But I won't be able to make any corrections.

Because of the weather there are probably going to be a lot of theater seats empty tonight. I agve some thought to prowling around and seeing if I could get a last-minute ticket. But the prowling is not good; the sidewalks are slushy and it's cold. So I think I'll have some supper at the hotel and then hole up with a book, maybe even get some work done.

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this and that

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 06 February 2007
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The_giver_001

This is a copy of THE GIVER with the Margaret Edwards Award seal on it, sent to me by someone at the Young Adult Library Services Association, the group that gives the award.

This copy of THE GIVER is one of the ones with a different look from the better-known photo of the bearded man. Some time back, the paperback publisher, Random House, did this separate version when they became aware that the book was attracting an adult audience. This version has no mention of YA, or Newbery Medal. I like the painting, the very evocative hands-and-snowflake, though I am more fond of the bearded man, since he was an actual man whom I knew and was fond of, and I took the photo.

To reply to some of you who have sent in posts:

Viki asks if the leatherbounbd volumes will be available for sale. No, they are one-of-a-kind, which is why it was such a special gift. But THE GIVER and the two subsequent related books are available in a boxed set pubished by Random House; and in the boxed set is included a set of maps (drawn by me) of the three communities.

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amazing gift

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Thursday, 01 February 2007
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OKay, I said I'd photograph the wonderful gift I've just received from the people at Random House. And here it is, though I found it very difficult to photograph. It is the "Giver" trilogy..the three books..beauifully leatherbound. If you click on the photos to enlarge them maybe you can get a teeny glimpse of the gold-tipped pages and the beautiul endpapers.

It was Random House, incidentally, that recently published the three books in a boxed set which includes the maps I drew of the three communities.

Looking at these, stroking the leather, reminds me of my grandfather. He was a banker, and I don't know, really, how literary he was, but he was of the age and culture that valued books; in his house was a room called "the library" which had a wall of bookcases. Those books were bound in beautifully colored leather like this, and I can recall the feel of them, and the smell...and the times when, very young - 4 or 5 - I sat on his lap while he read to me from Kipling or Longfellow. He always wore a suit with a vest and tie; I cannot recall ever seeing my grandfather in a sports shirt. Somehow that made it seem very important, the act of handling those books, of smelling that leather, of hearing those words...as if it were something one would naturally dress up for.

Surely it was summer, sometimes, when he read to me; but in my memory there is always a fire in the fireplace. And the 7 PM news has just ended, broadcast from a tall radio in the corner. War news. This would have been 1942, 1943. My father was over there, in that war. But my mother, in the memory, is seated at the desk, writing a letter. My grandmother, so tiny that her feet were resting on a small needlepointed footstool, is working on some kind of fragile embroidery. Very soon someone will take me up a long staircase with two landings, to my bedroom. But now, first, my grandfather will lift me into his lap, open the leatherbound book, and begin to read aloud. In the High and Far-Off Times the Elephant, O Best Beloved, had no trunk. He had only a blackish, bulgy nose, as big as a boot, that he could wriggle about from side to side; but he couldn't pick up things with it...

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Margaret Edwards Award

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Thursday, 01 February 2007
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The Margaret A. Edwards Award, established in 1988, honors an author, as well as a specific body of his or her work, that have been popular over a period of time. The annual award is administered by YALSA and sponsored by School Library Journal magazine. It recognizes an author's work in helping adolescents become aware of themselves and addressing questions about their role and importance in relationships, society, and in the world.Smlmedwards

When the ALA announcements were made last Monday about the children's book awards, my name was announced as the winner, for the book THE GIVER, of the Margaret Edwards Award. The award came into existence in the 1980's but was re-named, in 1990, for Margaret Edwards, who was, back in the 1930s I believe, the librarian who first paid real attention to books that would matter in the lives of adolescents.

I was somewhat distracted, immediately after the announcement, by the sudden death of one of my closest friends. But now as life settles and continues, I do want to mention how gratifying it is to have been chosen for this honor. Many friends and acquaintances have sent congratulatory notes, and there have been bouquets of flowers..and a box of chocolates!...from several publishers...plus an amazing gift that I won't attempt to describe but will, when I get a chance, photograph, just so you can get a glimpse.

In the meantime, here is a glimpse of Margaret Edwards herself, who looks like someone I wish i had known.

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e-mailing me

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 31 January 2007
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We tried to e-mail you, but it didn't work. Then we looked around your site for your e-mail address, but it wasn't there. So we found this blog, and here we are, writing a comment to tell you to please please please please write a sequel to Messenger! E-mail me if you will or won't.

Go to my website, and look on the right, where it says EMAIL ME.  Just click there.

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back from Milwaukee

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 31 January 2007
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from Viki in Canada, replying to a previous Canadian post:

I just thought I'd point out that I live in Canada and read The Giver as part of my curriculum in grade seven. Personally, I feel that the systems in Canada allow for a lot of debate and argument, but Canadians tend to be more open about the material they are willing to supply to the youth and that's why there are less instances of books like The Giver being challenged.

This past weekend I was in Milwaukee to see quite a fine production of THE GIVER done by the First Stage Theater. The amazing thing was the way they dealt with the color (or lack of color) issue. Using special lights (I will not be able to describe the actual tenchnology, or even remember the name of the sodiumblahblahblah lights) that sucked all the color out, the set and the performers all appeared, literally, black and white (and gray). Then, at appropriate moments, by shining a regular light on one item—apple; books in a bookcase; geraniums in a planter—the red color burst forth, dazzling... It was really quite remarkable. As the boy increased in knowledge, the general color came up very gradually. And the performances were all excellent. Interestingly...The Giver did not have the beard or longish hair that we have come to expect. His hair was quite short, grayish, and he was tall and slim, though he affected a hunched, stooped posture that made him seem tired and weighed down. But even those of us who have come to think of The Giver as bearded could, after a moment, completely adjust and accept this new and different version.... that's the power of an actor, and of the performance.

First Stage has kindly named a scholarship after me; and this first recipient of the Lois Lowry Scholarship is Joel Boyd, who played Jonas, and who now has a year's worth of free acting classes. (I bet he didn't know, nor did the theater people, that "Boyd" was my grandmother's maiden name, and my sister's middle name)Giver_012107_125x191
Kids_012107_125x91
I've inserted two photos, the first of 13-year-old Joel Boyd, with Mark Metcalf, who played The Giver, in rehearsal; and the second of Ryan Tutton, age 11, who also plays Jonas in alternate productions. Both boys did an amazing job...I was there two nights so got see each cast. (the adult performers remain the same)

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a post from Canada

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 29 January 2007
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As I've explained, I am no longer publishing comments from readers because of the ease with which it makes those readers' email addresses available to the public. But I can copy reader's comments into my own text when it seems they may be of interest. This reader from Canada is referring to book challenges and the fact that I pointed out no such challenges - at least against my books - have been brought in other countries. I think I was mainly referring to THE GIVER, so frequently challenged in the USA, but not in the 22 other countries where it is published.

from Francis, in Canada:

Dear Ms. Lowry;

The explanation you offer for the absence of controversy in other countries is a possible one. But since you so open-mindedly admit there are other possibilities, will you let me suggest one?

Well, it so happens that in very few countries are citizens so lucky as in the US to have a say in public matters, even if this tends to be less and less true. So, just as "the Committee" never changes anything in The Giver, we have "Committees" in Canada that prevent anything to change. So, one finally comes to the conclusion that resistance is futile.

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Things live on

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 24 January 2007
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A number of people who knew, or knew of, Carol Hurst have sent comments to me after hearing of her death. I'll pass those along to her two daughters and they'll be grateful. I remember that after my son was killed, in 1995, many strangers wrote to tell me of an encounter with him, a difference he had made in their lives. It was very touching...still is...to hear stories I had never heard, descriptions of things he had taught them, ways he had made them laugh. Now I am hearing the same things about Carol. There is comfort in knowing that memories remain not only with oneself but with the world. Things live on, and matter.

I have a close friend whose sister, Liza, died quite suddenly the same day that Carol did. My friend e-mailed yesterday and said, "I picture Liza frolicking in the heather with a fabulous red-headed Irishman. What do you think Carol is doing?"

I'd like to think that there is some kind of heaven somewhere that issues laptops to newcomers. That's how I'd picture Carol: with a cup of coffee, early in the morning, typing in my e-mail address. Hers was always my first e-mail of the day. It was always just two words: Up yet?

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Elsie Piddock

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 23 January 2007
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Elsiepiddock


A kind blog reader has given me the name of the story that my friend Carol told on that evening last summer: "Elsie Piddock Skips in her Sleep" by Eleanor Farjeon. A lovely story; a lovely memory of Carol.

My daughter-in-law in Germany, in an e-mail, has reminded me, as well, of a time Carol told the story "Loudmouse" to my small granddaughter, then age 6, seven years ago. It was just the two of them...storyteller and child...and the mom and I watching the child's expression, changing from wide-eyed anticipation, shivery excitement, then absolute glee.

There will be so many people who will remember Carol from having heard her tell stories. A wonderful legacy.

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sad news

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 23 January 2007
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Carol_hurst

This picture...so typical, the laughter...is of Carol Otis Hurst, author, critic, scholar, story-teller, teacher, and extraordinary friend.

Carol died this past weekend, quite suddenly.

Funny, I had always hoped that Carol would speak at my memorial service someday. She would have been wise and funny and irreverent and people would have gone away chuckling and sniffling and smiling, the same way they always left a gathering where she had spoken.

Last summer when she was at the farm in Maine with me, and there were other guests, one evening we sat on the screened porch with wine...outside it was getting dark, and you could hear the evening sounds, tree frogs, loons on the lake...and Carol told a story. It was one she told often but of course I've forgotten the essential details..the name of the girl...but it was about a girl who skipped rope better than anyone. It has a poignant ending, in which the girl drifts away into tne sky, skipping and skipping and skipping.. I remember we all sat there smiling and dabbing at our eyes.

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Icelandic names

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 22 January 2007
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Okay, since I brought it up, I'm going to explain it a little more. I am fascinated by names, which you know already from the book "Gathering Blue" which has a complex naming system.

The Icelandic system once applied to other Scandinavian countries but they have to some degree modernized, at least more than Iceland has.

My father was named Robert, and he was the son of Carl. They were Norwegian in backgound, but on coming to this country had dropped the name Anderson and taken the name Hammersberg, naming themselves for the village they had come from. So my father was Robert Hammersberg.

In Iceland, he would have been Robert Carlson.

My father's son, my brother, was named Jon. He is Jon Hammersberg. In Iceland, though, he would be Jon Robertson.

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well, good football, anyway

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 22 January 2007
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So the Pats didn't win. Still it was great day for football-watching. Though the sentimentalist in me rooted for the Saints, and the effect a win for them would have on their city...still, the good friend side of me was delighted with the Bears win. My friend Joanna called in the early afternoon from Chicago and on her behalf I said all during the game...that great throwaway line from the movie Fargo...."Go Bears." Presumably Joanna was shouting "Go Pats" during the later game but she doesn't have the persuasive powers I do. Hah.

Whatever happened to the old stereotype of a football-watcher? The guy in the undershirt, crushing beer cans? Here are my friend Joanna and I, between football matters discussing our grandchildren...both of us turning 70 the end of March...we are literary ladies (Joanna an actress and professor of theater), but somehow we turn into high-testosterone morons on Football Day.

Joanna and I met many years ago at a theater conference; I was only there because a college group was doing a performance of my book "Anastasia Krupnik." She was there doing a one-woman show, playing the poet Anne Sexton. We hit it off, in the way that sometimes happens when you spot a kindred soul. She had two kids, school age at the time, and now - years later - her son John, married, a father, is an associate director at the Milwaukee First Stage Theater which this weekend is opening "the Giver." I'll fly to Milwaukee Friday to be there for it.

At the same time, the Coterie Theater in Kansas City is also opening "The Giver." The attached photo comes from their production.

If you go to the First Stage website: http://www.firststage.org/ you can click on a viedotaped interview with the director, discussing, anong other things, how they dealt with the no-color/color of Jonas's world.

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Tough decision

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 17 January 2007
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Thank you, Genina, for your comment about THE GIVER.

Here is a decision that I've just made; I am not any longer going to "publish" comments to the blog. You can send them, and I will read them, and if anyone brings up something of general interest that they would like me to discuss, I will do so.

But a reader has very kindly brought to my attention that when a comment is published, anyone can email that person by clicking on their signature. I don't want to provide easy email access to kids from strangers. How many creeps and pedophiles are out there reading a writer's blog? Probably few, maybe none. But one would be too many.

So: please still write me, if you wish. But that comment will remain private between me and you.

***

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the right words

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 15 January 2007
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I want to recommend a book, READING LIKE A WRITER by the aptly-named Francine Prose. She divides it into chapters titled Words, Sentences, Paragraphs, and so on. It describes beautifully why some writers, and some books, stand apart from and above others. It makes you want to re-read many of the classics that you read in college, appreciating them more, aware more of the careful construction of them.

The chapter on "words"made me think of something I have remembered ever since my graduate school days. The writer/critic H.G. Wells, speaking of Henry James, said (I'm misquoting here, but not the important words) that James, in writing a novel, created an elaborate altar, and then placed upon it "a dead kitten, an eggshell, and a piece of string." What he meant, of course, and said in that perfect metaphor, was that the construct was intricate and perhaps beautiful but the content was minor.

The reason it has stayed with me is because of the words he chose: a dead kitten, an eggshell, a piece of string. They are just right. Not only in the images they provide, but also in their cadence. If you read them aloud, they fall into the right rhythm.

I thought of it this morning when, in my mind, I recounted the things I had caught my puppy chewing between 7 and 9 AM: a hairbrush, a whisk broom, a slipper, and a teabag. If I were to list those things in an essay, I would have to change them. The content is fine—it demonstrates the infinite variety of his appetite and mischief—but the cadence is wrong. I would know that, if I were writing, because I would say it aloud. First of all, I would delete one thing; four is too many. Make it: a hairbrush, a slipper, and a teabag. No. Sounds wrong. A hairbrush, a slipper, and a cup of tea sounds right but it is inaccurate..he didn't, couldn't chew a cup of tea. Also, I'd like to retain the whisk broom because of the "whisk"...such a wonderful modifier....and because "hairbrush" and "slipper" are too much the same, somehow: both of them bedroom/bathroom types of things. So: A teabag, a whisk broom, and a...I have to make something up here, some three-syllable thing. Well, he has often chewed on my knitting, so I will make it a strand of yarn. Nol Wait. I'll make it a broken comb. Or how about: a plastic comb.

This morning, between 7 and 9 AM, I caught my puppy chewing on a whisk broom, a teabag, and a plastic comb.

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YESSSS!!!!

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on Sunday, 14 January 2007
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Imgdyncfm

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reminder

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Saturday, 13 January 2007
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Someone named Matthew submitted a comment to one of my earlier posts and I have had to delete it because it contained his email address, and of course I would not publish personal information of that sort. But this is a reminder to Matthew and others that I cannot answer questions on the blog. If you need a question answered, email me through the website. It is easy to do.

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Who is this book for?

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Saturday, 13 January 2007
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This is a question I am asked often, in emails from parents or teachers, and they are referring to the age of the reader. Should our school use this book in fifth grade, or is it better saved till seventh? Can I give this to my 10-year-old grandson for his birthday? I can answer that to some degree (THE GIVER, for example, is better saved till seventh; and save it, why don't you, till his 12th birthday) but in truth, kids are so individual...people are so individual...that no single answer serves everyone.

And it is not something I think about as I write.

Many, many years ago, 1975 I think it was, I published a short story in Redbook magazine. (That magazine was very different then; I don't think it even publishes fiction any more). It was a story for adults, but it was about a child; it was told through the perceptions of a nine-year-old.

Not long ago a publisher contacted me and said they would like to have that story beautifully illustrated and publish it as a picture book. A picture book? I thought. PIcture books are, by and large, for kids. This was a story for adults. At least I wrote it for adults. But I went back and re-read the story. In my mind, for the first time, I could see it with maybe water color illustrations. I could see the little girl (of course I could; she was me) and for the first time I could see that the story did in fact have something to say to a larger audience, one that included young people. Not four year olds. Not six year olds. But young girls, the age that the girl in the story is...the age that I was, in the story. And so I gave them permisison to give it a try.

But I was not thinking of them as the readers, when I wrote the story more than 30 years ago.

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Grouchy ranting

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 08 January 2007
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Granted, I have not yet seen the show itself (and probably never will) but I have now seen enough promotional stuff to know for certain that I am offended by a coming TV show called "Armed and Famous" in which "celebrities"....like La Toya Jackson (go figure).... undergo a little training and then put on uniforms and apparently are given guns...and go out and are filmed while they are being, or pretending to be, cops.

The ads for this show, showing scenes from it, make it look as if there is a lot of merriment involved, and much squealing with amusement when the people (victims? perps?) who are stopped by these frauds suddenly realize that their apprender is actually - ta DA! - a CELEBRITY.

I'm trying to figure out why I find this so offensive. Would I be equally outraged if it were Celebrity Dentists? Celebrity Kindergarten Teachers?

Yes, I think I would. I think my outrage has to do with the fact that normal, hard-working, dedicated people invest a lot of time becoming qualified in their jobs...and then working, often underpaid, and caring about the work that they do. And certainly that is true of law enforcment people. My brother's son, Erik, has a college degree in Criminal Justice and he is a police officer. I have a daughter who is currently finishing a master's degree in Criminal Justice and I have observed first-hand the kind of study and research she has done in that field.

And now La Toya Jackson - and several other has-been, little-talent "celebrities" are allowed to strap on guns and pretend to be a police...for purposes of cheap entertainmment?

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