Teacher's Guide: Gathering Blue
ABOUT THIS BOOK
In this companion to The Giver, the Newbery Medal—winning favorite among educators, Lois Lowry takes young readers to another futuristic society. Orphaned and physically handicapped, Kira is unsure of her future until she is named weaver of the singer’s robe and becomes a ward of the Council of Guardians.
Kira, born with a deformed leg, is frightened and uncertain of her future when her mother dies and the neighbors burn her cot and treat her with great hostility. Her father had long ago succumbed to the beasts, and now Kira is alone except for Matt, a boy from the Fen, who becomes her friend. It is the ways of her community to shun and discard the weak, but Kira’s fate appears hopeful when she is called before the Council of Guardians and given the task of repairing the singer’s robe, a robe that represents the entire history of Kira’s community. Kira goes to live at the Council Edifice and soon meets Thomas, the carver, and little Jo, the future singer. While life appears good for the three-orphaned artists, there is a feeling of menace in the air, and it falls upon Matt to help Kira find the courage to seek the truth.
ABOUT THIS AUTHOR
Lois Lowry has written over 20 novels spanning several genres. Her Anastasia Krupnik series, set in contemporary Boston, follow with poignant humor the exploits of Anastasia (a precocious adolescent), her younger brother Sam, and their artistic parents. Books like Rabble Starkey and A Summer to Die focus on families and crisis, and examine the strength and love that bind them together. Number the Stars, Lowry’s first work of historical fiction and a Newbery Medal winner, is set during the Holocaust. The Giver, Lowry’s first work of fantasy, is now joined by its companion novels, Gathering Blue and The Messenger.
q & a with the author
Q. What was your inspiration for writing Gathering Blue? Did you have any strong influences?
A. I simply hadn’t stopped thinking about the future after I wrote The Giver. There were a lot of unanswered “what ifs,” and for a writer, that means a book begins taking shape.
Q. What is the significance of the title?
A. Originally I had planned to call it The Gathering, which seemed a perfect title (given the fact that there is actually a ceremony called the Gathering in the book) and would make a good companion title to The Giver. But then I discovered that Virginia Hamilton had written a book called The Gathering. It seemed discourteous . . . though it wouldn’t have been illegal . . . to use the same title. So Gathering Blue was a second choice, but I like this title.
Engage the class in a discussion about the meaning of art and how it is a means of self expression. Divide the class into small groups, and ask each group to list the many different forms of art–for example, painting, embroidery, drawing, sculpture, carving, etc. Students may wish to find pictures to illustrate the various art forms.
FEAR–Engage the class in a discussion about how Kira deals with her fears. How do her fears change throughout the novel? Discuss how Kira changes from a fearful young girl to a self-assured young woman. Ask the class to discuss how Kira and Thomas help Jo deal with her fears. Discuss why the women of the village are fearful of Vandara. How does Vandara display the qualities of a bully? Talk about the best way to deal with bullies.
COURAGE–Discuss how Katrina shows courage when she stands up to the people of the community and demands that her handicapped daughter’s life be spared. Katrina told Kira, “Take pride in your pain. . . .You are stronger than those who have none.” (p. 22) How is strength related to courage? Discuss how physical pain contributes to Kira’s courage. Matt suffers from a different type of pain. Describe his life in the Fen. Discuss the many different ways he shows courage.
FRIENDSHIP–Matt is a devoted friend to Kira though they lead very different lives. Why do you think Matt befriends Kira? Kira admires Matt’s curiosity, and she thinks he is kindhearted. Discuss how kindness is an important element in friendship. Ask the class to trace Matt’s devotion to Kira from the beginning of the novel to the end. Discuss the relationship that develops between Kira and Thomas. How is their friendship the key to their survival?
TRUTH–Ask the class to explain the truth that Kira discovers. Debate whether Matt knew these truths before Kira was taken to the Council Edifice. Discuss whether Annabella realized her fate. How does art reveal truth? How does Kira’s art lead her to the truth? Why does the Council of Guardians conceal the truth?
FREEDOM–Discuss how the people of the village are slaves to the Council of Guardians. At what point does Kira realize that she isn’t really free, even though she lives in an unlocked room? Ask the class to discuss how “true art” requires freedom of expression. Discuss how Kira, Thomas, and Jo lose the freedom to express themselves in their art form.
connecting to the curriculum
LANGUAGE ARTS–Gathering Blue is a companion novel to The Giver. Discuss the difference between a companion novel and a sequel. Talk about the similarities and differences in the two novels. Ask students to write a letter that Kira might write to Jonas, the main character in The Giver, where she tells him the frightening truths that she discovers about her community. Share the letters in class, and discuss what Jonas might write back to her.
Kira has always yearned to read, but in her society women aren’t allowed. Send students to the library to select a book that Kira might enjoy reading if she was given the right. Instruct each student to write a one-page paper explaining his or her book selection.
SOCIAL STUDIES–Death rituals and customs vary throughout the world. In Kira’s world, people are taken to the Field of Leaving, and their loved ones sit there until the spirit has left the deceased. Discuss the different rituals practiced in your students’ own cultures or religions. Send students to the library to find out death rituals from different cultures. They may wish to focus on the cultures they have studied in social studies. Engage the class in a discussion about the results of their research.
SCIENCE–Kira is sent to Annabella to learn about the various plants used for dyeing threads. Have students list the plants that Kira studies. Then refer them to www.gallica.co.uk/celts/dyes.htm and ask them to create an illustrated booklet called “Plants and Their Colors.” Instruct students to describe each plant, tell where it grows, note the color each plant creates, and discuss the process for extracting the color from the plants. Encourage students to use books in the library or information from the Internet to find out other plants that are used to make dyes.
MUSIC–Jo is the future singer for the annual Ruin Song Gathering. Ask students to use information learned in the book about the society ruled by the Council of Guardians and write words for “The Ruin Song.” They may wish to select appropriate music for their lyrics.
ART–Explain to students that tapestries and needlework samplers have been used throughout history to tell stories–to preserve history. Ask students to create a small sampler that details one special memory from their family.
Students may enjoy trying their hand at dyeing threads. Provide the class with common items used for dyeing such as beets, spinach leaves, red cabbage, tea, etc. Give each student strands of white wool yarn to dye. Allow students to share their yarns in class. How many different colors are made? How many different hues?
using the companion novels together
The Giver, Gathering Blue, and Messenger are companion novels. Discuss the difference between a companion novel and a sequel. Talk about the similarities and differences in the three novels. Debate whether The Giver and Gathering Blue are companion novels, and Messenger a sequel to the other two books. Ask students to write a letter that Kira, the main character in Gathering Blue, might write to Jonas, the main character in The Giver, where she tells him the frightening truths that she discovers about her community. Likewise, write a letter that Leader in Messenger might write to Kira explaining why she needs to return to Village with Matty. Share the letters in class.
Define utopia and dystopia. Ask the class to brainstorm the virtues of each type of society. Then, instruct students to write a short story set either in a utopian or a dystopian society. Encourage them to share their stories in class. Gathering Blue is set in a diverse society where citizens are allowed thoughts, feelings, and to live freely (if often chaotically), whereas The Giver is set in a society that regulates everything from emotions to procreation. The society in Messenger is founded on the premise that any persons seeking refuge should be accepted into their community, no matter their shortcomings, but this open-minded attitude is threatened when some citizens decide they would be better off closing their borders. Ask students to use books in the library or sites on the Internet to research the basic tenets of a democracy. Ask for volunteers to debate the following topic: “Democracy: A Utopia or a Dystopia.”
questions for group discussion
COMMUNITY–Have students describe how the communities in The Giver and Gathering Blue are similar. What are their primary differences? Discuss why Jonas, the Blind Man, and Matty feel forced to leave their communities. Village in Messenger was created out of selflessness. Contrast selflessness and selfishness. How are the efforts to close the border a selfish act? Discuss the potential dangers to the community.
FEAR–Jonas understands fear in The Giver and, in Messenger, establishes Village as a place where others can come to escape their fears. Explain the fear that Leader is feeling when the citizens of Village vote to close the borders. In Messenger, Matty learns that Forest is a “tangled knot of fears and deceits and dark struggles of power.” (p. 168) Ask student how might Forest be symbolic of the communities in The Giver and Gathering Blue?
HOPE–Debate whether the people in The Giver and Gathering Blue understand the meaning of hope. How do Jonas, Matty, and the Blind Man represent hope in Messenger? At what point are these three characters almost stripped of hope?
COURAGE–Jonas in The Giver and Matty in Gathering Blue live in communities that thrive on control, and “sameness.” What gives Jonas and Matty the courage to leave their communities? Debate with students whether the courage of the “new people” in Messenger is driven by hope or fear.
FEELINGS–Jonas wasn’t allowed feelings in The Giver. Now as Leader of Village, he encourages people to express their feelings. Describe his feelings for Matty. How does Seer get inside the feelings of Leader? Have students compare Matty’s feelings for Jean in Messenger to his feelings for Kira in Gathering Blue. Contrast Leader’s feelings as he looks over Village in Messenger to his feelings when he left his community in The Giver.
FAMILY–Ask students to define family from the point of view of the following characters: Jonas in The Giver, Kira, Matt, and Thomas in Gathering Blue, Matty, Jean, and Seer in Messenger. How might Matty describe his newly acquired family in Messenger to Kira?
This novel is an opportunity for students to expand their vocabulary. Ask students to jot down unfamiliar words and try to define them using clues from the context of the story. Such words may include: forage (p. 11), malevolence (p. 15), elite (p. 31), sinewy (p. 32), contemptuous (p. 37), vindictive (p. 38), pulsated (p. 45), iridescent (p. 56), impetuous (p. 63), inert (p. 65), infinitesimal (p. 95), volition (p. 96), oppressive (p. 109), bravado (p. 110), stiletto (p. 132), incessant (p. 159), chortle (p. 166), subtlety (p. 180), and renegade (p. 215).
“Lois Lowry, the consummate yarn-spinner, has deftly woven this cautionary tale so reminiscent of her Newbery tour-de-force, The Giver.” –School Library Journal
“A top writer, in top form.” –Starred, Kirkus Reviews
BEYOND THE BOOK
This site provides information about plants used for dyes.
This site provides information about native dye plants
of the United States.
Whiteworks: The Embroidery Pages
This site gives information about the different
types of embroidery.
OTHER TITLES OF INTEREST
Fear • Courage • Friendship
Truth • Freedom
Grades 7 up / 0-385-73255-4
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Fear • Courage • Friendship
Truth • Freedom
Grades 7 up / 0-440-23912-5
ABOUT THIS GUIDE
about the novels
of Lois Lowry
The protagonists in these companion novels deal with fear, power, and secrets, but somehow they gain the courage to defy the evils of their controlling world. Lowry makes a provocative statement about community and freedom.
Prepared by Pat Scales, Director of Library Services, South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, Greenville, South Carolina, and Gary D. Schmidt, Director of English, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan.