Son by Lois Lowry

When an author can mirror the magnificence of their initial novel with a sequel of equal caliber, it is nothing short of magic. But to do it multiple times over is something that only the likes of Lois Lowry could do. After a sequel and third installment, Lowry does it again with her story, Son. (Please note that I will be building off of concepts already discussed in past reviews. If you are not familiar with the previous stories in The Giver quartet, please read the corresponding reviews)

Back in the good old community, there is a girl called Claire. As a birth mother, she has been artificially inseminated and will have a child, one of the three who she is fated to bear during her few short years before she is subjected to a lifetime of physical labor jobs. Much as the citizens of the community lack knowledge of numerous aspects of life, the birth mothers are oblivious to their pregnancy, and that they will have a child. It’s not like they woke up on e day and where all “What the heck? What’s this bump on my stomach?”. The understand pregnancy but don’t realize that it means they will have a child. They are told that they must carry a “product”, they are blindfolded during the birth, then it happens twice more. Despite being blindfolded, Claire can tell that something is going wrong with her delivery. It is due to this that Claire is given an early leave from her role as birthmother and condemned to work at the fish hatchery. However, she starts to gain knowledge of her child and eventually begins to volunteer at the child care center where she meets him, Gabe. Mind blown! Lowry does it again! Anyway, Claire deepens her and Gabe’s bond while she learns that he is being taken care of by Jonas’s family unit who has a deep affinity for him. BANG! Then, one night the community is all up and out of bed. All of the people are like “What could have disturbed me from my dreamless sleep in my grey Minecraft bed?” (I don’t know, that’s just what I always envisioned). Voices proclaim that Jonas has fled the community with a baby. Claire puts two and two together and goes “Oh shoot”. She runs onto a nearby shipping ship which sets out for the sea and becomes a sunken shipping ship (say that five times fast!).

Breathe, end of part one!

Claire is struggling and half hallucinating in the water because due to the emotional strain and, ‘cause she has like never swam before (reason number #2,567, 898 why the community sucks). She ends up on the shore of a rural town where she is adopted (‘cause like guys, she is still a minor at this point) by a woman called Alys. Alys is like the co-chief of the village and also the nurse and midwife. Under Alys’s guidance, Claire basically goes through preschool (she learns about colors, feelings, trigonometry, rocket science, you know, basic things that they did not have in the community). She also grapples with an immense feeling of loss and she can not understand why. It’s like that feeling when you go to school and your all “I feel like I’m forgetting something” then you sort of forget, but it resurfaces “What was it?”. Then class starts and the teacher’s like “Okay, I’ll collect all your homework” and you just go “Oh shoot”. That’s exactly how Claire felt when she had the consciousness to remember her son.

Then she starts going really mad. Before the news got out to the town, Claire was pretty hot stuff. There was this guy named Andres who was totally into Claire but after the news spreads, he’s like “Nah” ‘cause Andres is a sucky dud like that. Basically, in this little seaside village, premarital sex is a big no no and once you are no longer a virgin you sort of depreciate in value. This town is super traditional like that. Also, ‘cause they are like simple farm people living off of the Earth, they don’t get the concept of artificial insemination and that Claire did not technically hook up with anyone. All the ladies stay at home, silent in the kitchen and all the dudes do stuff like fishing or farming, stuff like that. The whole town is basically a bunch of Baby Boomers if you catch my drift. So, she is reduced to the laughing stalk of the village. The only ones to stick by her are Alys and Einar, a sheep herder.

Einar is such a sweetheart. He is so genuine and kindhearted with everyone, and the sheep which he has memorized all the names of. He is not a “macho man” like all of the other village men. He also has a depressing past. Einar’s mom died in childbirth. Therefore, his “macho man” father who was super upset about losing his wife who was like the best part of his dull “macho man” fisherman life, blamed it on his son and therefor made life sucky for Einar. This dude was a jerk, on steroids. On top of verbal and physical abuse, his father emotionally abused him in a way. Due to a, uh, lack of a female presence, Einar was subjected to fill his mother’s role in a few different ways, i’ll let you fill in the blanks. One day Einar got so fed up with his sucky life that he decided that he was going to scale the massive cliff that loomed behind the village. No one had ever gotten to the top before, some people tried but turned back, others died. Einar did it. But he might as well not have.

One day Claire tells him her story and how she needs to set out to find her son. She does not want to go back to the sea (don’t blame her) so she asks Einar to help her get over the cliff. If you have had visions of scaling Mt. Everest and their is a full camera crew waiting for you at the top and like a ton of money and food and a mansion or something (I don’t know what is in your fantasy!), I don’t think that a creepy dude was part of it. Like, I bet that you wanted anything but a creepy dude. Especially when that creepy dude wants to steal your soul. Putting two and two together, it’s Trademaster, (sarcastic yay!). So when Einar got to the top and was really for the cameras, Trademaster’s all “Hey dude, was there ever anything that you wanted real bad but you just could’nt get it?” and then Einar goes, “Nah brah, I’m good, I’m on top of the world right now, literally”. Then, Trademaster’s like “For realzies?” and Einar’s like “Yah dude, can I get you anything? Like a water or something?” After that Trademaster is like “Skrew you and your niceness!” and attacks Einar’s leg like a big fat jerk face. Then Einar’s like “Uh, I gotta bounce” and shimmy’s back down the cliff.

Now, Einar is crippled for life. When Einar tells Claire this, she agrees that she is willing to under go something of a similar category for the chance of seeing her son again. Einar agree’s to help her train to climb the cliff. After a few years Claire builds up enough endurance and strength to reach the top. Then, before she goes she and Einar kiss, ‘cause like why not and Claire gets to the top. When she gets there, she goes to sleep. You probably think that your alarm clock is a crappy thing to wake up to, waking up to Trademaster is worse. Trademaster’s all, “OMG, your hair is like totally adorbs, what conditioner are you using?”. Then Claire’s like “Oh thanks-wait a sec”. Then Trademaster’s like “What brings you to my neck of the woods?” and Claire goes, “Oh, ya know, stuff” and then Trademaster’s like “I know about the kid from all of the stalking that I’ve done of you on the intedwebs” and Claire’s all “Oh shoot”. Then Trademaster’s like, “Give me your hair, your beauty, your youth and I’ll tell you where he is”. Einar has told Claire that she should make the trade, whatever it was just to get it over with. So, she did it. He told her to go straight through the woods to which she said “It was that simple?” and she turned into an old lady. As she approached a town, she saw a group of boys and felt a connection with one of them, Gabe. She longed to see her sweet child but she realized what a fool she would look like, an old woman emerging from the wood claiming to be his mother. It was then that the full evil of Trademaster’s deal struck her.

Water break, part two!

Now that her plans of reunion with Gabe have been foiled, Claire moves into a quaint little place on the outskirts of the town. This town however, is the town in which Jonas and Gabe ended up at at the end of The Giver and the town in which Seer lived after he was blinded and the town which almost had a complete wall built around it due to the corrupt Trademaster. After Matty died in Messenger, all of Trademaster’s wrongdoing in the town where undone and he fled to the forest. That should be the end of the story, at least many of the citizens of the town thought so… duh, duh, duh. Anywho, Claire sort of stalks Gabe for a little while and begins to assimilate into the town. She starts getting sick and dying because she is now an older woman. She confides in the town leader her story and of her and Gabe’s connection. The town leader is Jonas who also plays somewhat of a father figure roll in Gabe’s life. Don’t get any ideas about him and Claire though because Jonas and Kira are married with two kids name Mathew and Annabelle. At first when Claire tells Jonas her story, he is like “Whatever old lady” but then he realizes, “Oh, shoot. Trademaster must really still be out there!”.

So, because this is the super logical thing to do, Jonas decides, “Yah know what, let’s send Gabe, a little kid, out into the forest to fight this dude”. Also, as Jonas is loosing his abilities to see beyond, Gabe is only discovering his ability of feeling what other people feel, basically sympathy. All the while, Gabe has been working on building a boat. He researched boats in books which he borrows from Jonas’s extensive library. He gets all pumped up about the boat, actually. He gets all his friends to carve their names in the oar that he will use to paddle and everything. But, the boat fails. When he goes into the forest to fight Trademaster though, he brings the oar with him. He finds Trademaster who challenges him to a duel, offering him an assortment of weapons to choose from but Gabe’s all “Nah, I’m good”. Trademaster insults Gabe telling him how he has traded with people far more worth while and how insignificant he is. Gabe refuses to fight Trademaster so, he tries to make a trade with Gabe, who turns it down. Gabe uses his ability to feel on Trademaster. He gets a bunch of hungry vibes back. Gabe then realizes that Trademaster is starving. But not starving like “Bruh, I could eat this whole pizza I’m so hungry” but starving for his victims sadness. He feeds off of their misery. Then Gabe’s all, “Hey, remember Mentor?” and Trademasters like, “Yah, I ruined his life” and then Gabe’s like “No way Jose, he is happy now. He is living every day like a boss”. That was like the equivelent of Gabe punching Trademaster in the stomach. He lurches and is like “Dang, that hurt”.

Then Gabes all “Remember Einar, the one who turned you down?” and Trademaster’s all, “Uh yah, I made him miserable” and Gabe’s like “Nah man, he’s doing great. Plus, this supper hot girl is totally into him”. That was another punch. With each punch Trademaster got more hungry for some kind of crappy ending. Then Gabe was like “And you remember that girl to, that babe in the story was my mom, Claire! She was looking for her son who, by the way, is just as hot! And she found me. You took her youthfulness away but we found each other so it didn’t even matter. You will never love anyone, and I feel bad, but also, screw you, I hope you starve!”. With that, Trademaster turned into a pile of sloppy gush because he was never really human, he was evil. Gabe buried the oar to commemorate the place where evil died and went back to the town where Claire was revived as a young woman and everyone lived happily ever after (for real this time)!

-Ainsley H.

P.S. The book never says anything about this but I am totally curious about it and I think that other people are to: I just really want to assume that this happened and for the sake of putting it out there, in the Ainslican version of the text, Claire and Einar live together in the village where Jonas and Gabe and all them live. That makes the happy ending happier!

Son by Lois Lowry is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Don’t Let Age Kill To Kill A Mockingbird

Harper Lee’s classic, To Kill A Mockingbird, is a beloved work of fiction that has definitely left its mark in the world of literature. That being said, many modern readers roll their eyes at the thought of reading “classic” literature and opt for more current works to fit their current palette. Classics, Little Women, A Tale of Two Cities, Tom Sawyer, etc., tend to get a bad rap for not being applicable to today’s obstacles. However, if we take these books out of their settings, they have valuable lessons to teach us. To Kill A Mockingbird is a prime example.

For Starters, The Strong Female Heroines

From Scout to Miss Maudie to Helen Robinson, To Kill A Mockingbird is chock-full of heroines. Scout, with her “tomboy” appeal and rugged attitude, throw off the social norm. Refusing to give in to the petty gossip of Aunt Alexandra’s lunch group, Miss Maudie is a strong advocate for girls. Helen Robinson going to work to support her family in place of re-marrying. All of these ladies are heroines in a town where Atticus gets to be the ringleader of morality.

Secondly, The Timeless Appeal

Despite the fact that the story is set in the time of the Great Depression, the story has minimal markers of its period. For example, if the characters were traveling in a covered wagon, we would presume that the story took place in the past. Also, the characters are not time traveling. By not adding these elements, the author shows that the story is not set in another time period. Because there are not factors that make you feel that you are indefinitely stuck in one time period or another, you can imagine the story in your own context, therefore personalizing it. When a reader can personalize a story, the theme resonates more strongly with them.

The Theme

Today, the world is undergoing major construction in the frontier of equality. The most prominent theme of To Kill A Mockingbird is to treat others as one would like to be treated. Considering the tremendous strides in activism that have happened recently, To Kill A Mockingbird will stoke the flames in today’s advocates just as it was meant to do when it was published. Now more than ever, as a society we need this energy to keep up the good fight for justice.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee was a phenomenon in its day. Due to being deemed a classic of literature, it has lost the appeal in today’s reader’s eyes. However, it still has so much to offer from the strong female heroines, it’s a timeless theme and the way that it can empower us to keep fighting for equality.

-Ainsley H. 

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Messenger by Lois Lowry

By this point in The Giver series, people have given up reading for a host of reasons. First, they never even made it to Gathering Blue. Third, they read Gathering Blue and did not see the connection to The Giver so didn’t see a point in continuing. They have something against their amazing book.

First of all, it’s a series so, like, get with the program. Plus they are great reads anyway so you won’t be wasting your time. Basically, there is this world (presumably ours but in the future) where there are scattered communities that are pretty much all messed up. One is a utopia, where a boy named Jonas is selected for a special job that will lead him to see beyond the norm. Another is just really wonky and the government (which btw is all guys) pretty much enslaves children with talent. Here, Kira is commissioned as a slave for her skill in weaving.

The Giver is dedicated to Janas and his story while Gathering Blue tells of Kira and her triumphs. A lot of the time people read The Giver and are like “Wow, that was great! (The book, not the society people, don’t go thinking that) What rose can I read by my new queen, Lois Lowry?”. Then they are like, “Oh, Gathering Blue, this looks cool.”. And they go through and read it but don’t actually pay attention to it because they spend the whole time trying to figure out how it is related to The Giver (myself included). Friend, don’t make that mistake. Not if but when you read Gathering Blue, appreciate it for what it is. Don’t meet Micheal Jackson and then Janet and spend your whole conversation trying to look for things that make them look related! You’ll miss out on everything that she has to say.

The point is, before you do anything else with your life, read The Giver. Then, before you even blink start reading Gathering Blue and get your life back on track. If it is not apparent, these books are, like, sacrilegious to me. Messenger does not really connect The Giver and Gathering Blue. Now you are probably thinking, “What, I just went through all of your lamenting for that”. Hold your horses. Messenger lays the groundwork for Son, the last and longest book in the series. Messenger and Son are as related as The Giver and Gathering Blue are unrelated if you catch my drift. In Messenger, you see more of two background characters from Gathering Blue. If you would like the general summary, continue further.

WARNING: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS FOR EVERYONE WHO IS NOT TAKING THE TITLE OF THIS PARAGRAPH SERIOUSLY.

You have been warned. If you thought that I was ranting up top, you have not seen the beginning. Deep breath and…once upon a time in Gathering Blue when Kira meets her father, Seer, he says that he lives in a community that is like literally the only nice place in the world to raise your kids. They accept refugees from all of the other wackadoo cities, in fact, it was founded by them too. Kira’s friend Matty goes to life with Seer. The story takes place while Matty is coming of age (surprise surprise, Lois Lowry is a partial time that age) and is looking for a job/purpose in the world. He really likes to deliver letters and parcels for the villagers (because there aren’t and forms of digital messaging here). He is like the Hermes, going back and forth. He aspires to be the town’s mailman. In this city, it is sort of like in colonial times. Everyone is an expert at something. For example, there is one baker, one teacher, one candlestick maker. You name it, there is only one. Matty wants to be an expert delivery man. Anywhoo, he is coming of age and learning about himself when low and behold, a conflict arises! This town is basically full of first-generation refugees. These people understand the serious oppression in their world. They get that it is no bed of roses.

Not only that, these people were brave enough to escape and start new lives for themselves. They are the spinning images of chivalrous; morally strong and outwardly brave and kind. However, this super sketchy dude comes along and (almost) ruined it. In case you have not picked up on it by now, everyone’s superpowers are kind of magical. Jonas and his “seeing beyond”. Kira’s impeccable weaving. Matty’s, uh, speedy deliveries. Well, this sketchy guy, Trademaster, he’s magical too, but he has dark magic. He operates this event where he comes into the good little town and tempts people with things that they desire in refers to part of their soul. Mahhhh! I know, it’s super trippy. So, say you want the winning lottery ticket. Snap! He makes it happen. Awesome, right? No friend, most defiantly not awesome. In return for that lottery ticket you are going to have to part with part of yourself. “Great!” you think yo yourself, “I get this lottery ticket and I get to get rid of my bad temper, cool!”. FRIEND, sit down, sit down right now.

Trademaster would not want your bad temper, no one does. He collects juicy things like “kindness”, “morality”, “intelligence”, “bravery”, things to put on your resume. So you get the lottery ticket and you win and you are loaded but your partner breaks up with you and you and says your breath stinks and you are losing hair and getting fat and wrinkly and old. Then you are sitting all alone one-night scooping ice cream out of a carton watching soap operas and wondering what happened to your life. Your rich, but lonely. Snap! Trademaster took your “romanticness”. Not worth it, huh. But now it’s too late. You are stuck being lonely and single forever. So basically, Trademaster rolls into town and everyone is like Oh, ah! Matty quickly learns from the wisdom of Seer that Trademaster is sketchy and tries to convince everyone else of this. Meanwhile, Trademaster is corrupting the town. This empire of refugees is building a wall to block out people seeking freedom and a new life. Also, if the wall is closed up Seer will never see Kira again! Matty has to go on the most important delivery mission of his career, to bring Kira to see her father. I am going to leave you on a cliff hanger. But hopefully, my summary has intrigued you enough to keep reading the series.

Once upon a time there was a rural, simple little town built of refugees from maniacal communities. There is a boy who is coming of age and wants to discover his calling and has a passion for mail delivery. He and his adopted father are the only ones who see through Trademaster an evil magician who’s ambition is to turn all of the noble-minded people against one another and all other refugees. I can never give it the justice that it deserves.

This book is not as exciting as the other three, that’s true. However, it connects Gathering Blue to the last book and lays the foundation for Son which is really, really phenomenal. Thank you for listening to my ranting, hopefully, it has done you some good and Good Night!

-Ainsley H. 

Messenger by Lois Lowry is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: For Kids by Thomas C. Foster

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: For Kids is exactly its title.  I, however, found that I had a difficult time enjoying the book.  Because I am what you may call a “Do it Yourselfer” I like to develop my own practices and ways of going about things by experiencing the world for myself. I would rather teach myself how to paint rather than take lessons from a professional in order to develop my own unique style.

In the same sense, when reading, I analyze it my way. Foster may think that he is merely helping young readers learn to see the signs in literature that lead us to understand it for themselves (though had that been his true intention the title of his book might have been something like How to Read Literature For Yourself) but in reality, he is molding young minds to see literature as he does. The way that I see it, the more people who read this book, the closer we are to a dystopian thought process.

Literature is an art form, much like painting, music or drama, and should be treated as such.  Foster subtly suggests that it is, in fact, an equation that can only be solved one way, his way, such as a computer program. Of course, like anybody would, Foster denies this, claiming that he is only showing you that the signs exist. If this were true, he could have written a persuasive essay instead of a book about what these sights mean. Somebody reading this book is obviously struggling in the field of English. Does he really expect them to have the ambition to interpret the sigh an on their own? No, they will simply take his word for it. If Foster says pasta is a protein, they will blindly believe it.  Being an outspoken advocate for individuality, this book struck quite a chord with me.  I think that everyone’s own ideas are beautiful and that symbols don’t always mean one thing, that we should have conversations about what a work of literature means to us, not settle on one theme.  The quarrel over a scene’s outcome, not just accept the way it turned out to be morally correct if you feel that it is not.  We must stay true to ourselves and our view of the world based off of our morals, not let our minds be re-arranged to match others.  On a more positive note, I must amend Foster on the wide range of books, short stories, etc. in which he uses as examples to express his thoughts.  After reading this book, I found numerous new titles to explore.

If you are familiar with the works of Rick Riordan or John Green, you will find that Foster’s writing style and tone reflects there’s.  Perhaps this is for the audience he presumably is addressing, which the book recommends for 8 to 12-year-olds.  Some may be exasperated by my comparing of these authors to one who wrote a book aimed at that age group, so allow me to elaborate:  Foster writes in a laid back, childlike manner in order to appeal to the age group as Riordan and Green write in a laid back manner, because, well, the characters that tell their stories are still (to some extent) children.  I am not trying to poo-poo that style of writing, I am merely making a comparison.  If you are attracted to that style, you may find this book a refreshing alternative to the likes of Call of the Wild or Oliver Twist (not to cast shadows on those either).  

Calling all Hermiones:  You’ll have a field day correcting some of Foster’s mistakes about Greek Mythology.  I would not go as far to say that I know everything about everything when it comes to Greek Mythology, after all, there is probably still more crumbling under the weight of the ruins that lay atop them like a crown.  However, I know enough to know that Foster either got a few points wrong, or one of us took a wrong turn in our time machines back to Ancient Greece.  If you are a free thinker: never read this book, ever.  It is a waste of your time and your beautiful mind.  If you could use a little help in the good old subject of English, you may find this book informative.  Either way, like any book, take it with a grain of salt.  

-Ainsley H. 

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: For Kids by Thomas C. Foster is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library