Gathering Blue
by Lowry, Lois

Lame and suddenly orphaned, Kira is mysteriously removed from her squalid village to live in the palatial Council Edifice, where she is expected to use her gifts as a weaver to do the bidding of the all-powerful Guardians.

Lois Lowry is a two-time Newbery Medal winner for Number the Stars (1990) and The Giver (1994), the first dystopian novel in a quartet that includes Gathering Blue, Messenger, and, as of fall 2012, Son. She now divides her time between Cambridge, Massachusetts, and an 1840s farmhouse in Maine. Visit her website at


/*Starred Review*/ Gr. 5^-8. In what might be described as a companion to The Giver (1993), Lowry once again brings readers to an alternative civilization and introduces a young person who will be entrusted to pass on its history. This time, though, she will have the opportunity to plot its future, too. Kira is lame and a recent orphan, so she is not surprised when she is brought before the Council of Guardians to justify her existence. Unexpectedly, she finds a champion who brings her to live in the Council Edifice, where her talent for embroidery and her intuitiveness make her the choice for an important job-repairing the robe of the Singer, who each year sings the history of the world, with the events meticulously embroidered on the robe he wears. At first Kira cannot believe her luck. She makes a friend, Thomas, who carves the Singer's wooden staff, and learns the delicate art of dyeing her threads from a crone who lives outside the village. She is even able to maintain her friendship with the sassy, loyal urchin Matt. Slowly, however, Kira begins to see that all is not right in her world. Lowry is a master at creating worlds, both real and imagined, and this incarnation of our civilization some time in the future is one of her strongest creations. The coarseness and brutality of the people, the abundance of the land's natural resources, and the intricacies of the society make this setting as rich as Kira's most glorious colors. There is richness in the characters, too, all of whom are detailed with fine, invisible stitches. Only the final bit of plotting falters: too much is disclosed too quickly, and answers to questions about how Kira will achieve her objective-to create a kinder future as reflected by her stitchings on the robe-are left as hints (perhaps this bodes well for a sequel). Lowry has clearly addressed the issue of what happens when a young person becomes disillusioned with society; it would be equally interesting to know how she thinks worlds evolve into better places. ((Reviewed June 1 & 15, 2000)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

Lowry returns to the metaphorical future world of her Newbery-winning The Giver (1993) to explore the notion of foul reality disguised as fair. Born with a twisted leg, Kira faces a bleak future after her mother dies suddenly, leaving her without protection. Despite her gift for weaving and embroidery, the village women, led by cruel, scarred Vandara, will certainly drive the lame child into the forest, where the "beasts" killed her father, or so she's been told. Instead, the Council of Guardians intervenes. In Kira's village, the ambient sounds of voices raised in anger and children being slapped away as nuisances quiets once a year when the Singer, with his intricately carved staff and elaborately embroidered robe, recites the tale of humanity's multiple rises and falls. The Guardians ask Kira to repair worn historical scenes on the Singer's robe and promise her the panels that have been left undecorated. Comfortably housed with two other young orphans-Thomas, a brilliant wood-carver working on the Singer's staff, and tiny Jo, who sings with an angel's voice-Kira gradually realizes that their apparent freedom is illusory, that their creative gifts are being harnessed to the Guardians' agenda. And she begins to wonder about the deaths of her parents and those of her companions-especially after the seemingly hale old woman who is teaching her to dye expires the day after telling her there really are no beasts in the woods. The true nature of her society becomes horribly clear when the Singer appears forhis annual performance with chained, bloody ankles, followed by Kira's long-lost father, who, it turns out, was blinded and left for dead by a Guardian. Next to the vividly rendered supporting cast, the gentle, kindhearted Kira seems rather colorless, though by electing at the end to pit her artistic gift against the status quo instead of fleeing, she does display some inner stuff. Readers will find plenty of material for thought and discussion here, plus a touch of magic and a tantalizing hint (stay sharp, or you'll miss it) about the previous book's famously ambiguous ending. A top writer, in top form. (author's note) (Fiction. 11-13) Copyright 2000 Kirkus Reviews

“Mother?” There was no reply. She hadn’t expected one. Her mother had been dead now for four days, and Kira could tell that the last of the spirit was drifting away. “Mother.” She said it again, quietly, to whatever was leaving. She thought that she could feel its leavetaking, the way one could feel a small whisper of breeze at night.
Now she was all alone. Kira felt the aloneness, the uncertainty, and a great sadness.
This had been her mother, the warm and vital woman whose name had been Katrina. Then after the brief and unexpected sickness, it had become the body of Katrina, still containing the lingering spirit. After four sunsets and sunrises, the spirit too was gone. It was simply a body. Diggers would come and sprinkle a layer of soil over the flesh, but even so it would be eaten by the clawing, hungry creatures that came at night. Then the bones would scatter, rot, and crumble to become part of the earth.
Kira wiped briefly at her eyes, which had filled suddenly with tears. She had loved her mother, and would miss her terribly. But it was time for her to go. She wedged her walking stick in the soft ground, leaned on it, and pulled herself up.

Copyright © 2000 by Lois Lowry

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