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Summer's Last Gasps

Posted by Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 23 September 2009 in Uncategorized

I just took this with my iPhone, and realized that A) you can see me reflected in the door, and B) you can get a glimpse of Alfie looking out through the door, wondering what the heck I am doing.

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What I was doing was recording the annual fall spectacle of my coleus (thank you, White Flower Farm) at its so-magnificent height that the mailman has trouble getting to the mail slot (there is a second equally huge coleus on the other side of the door).  One morning soon, though, it will all have frozen, shriveled, and died.

Tomorrow morning, after getting a flu shot, I will head to the airport and then to Washington DC for the annual National Book Festival. Two busy days there, and one in Baltimore. Then, amazingly, two weeks at home---and maybe I can get some neglected work done?!---before my next gig, this one in Providence, RI.

As a result of this blog, I just had an email from a childhood friend (Hi, Carol, if you are reading this) whom I last saw in probably 1952. Technology has made the world so much smaller and accessible (well, duh, could I please come up with some keener insight than that!?) and over the years I have heard from friends with whom I went to school in Tokyo (ages 11-14), Pennsylvania (ages 6-11, and 14-15), and New York (ages 15-17), not to mention college and young motherhood, all the rest of it. Once I heard from the grandchild of someone who had babysat for my children!  It took me a while to wrap my mind around that one!

Most meaningful have been the emails from the young men who worked with, or had been trained by, my son, who died at age 36, and who have written to tell me their memories of him and what he had meant to them.  I always send those along, after I answer them, to my son's widow and daughter.  (It sounds oddly sexist to say "young men" because I know there are female fighter pilots in the USAF, and perhaps he instructed some, or flew with some.. But it has been only men that I've heard from).

I've heard, too, from people who were pictured, or mentioned, in my memoir "Looking Back."  The little boy who loaned me his football uniform for Halloween when I was eight, or so---now a retired Lutheran minister. The little girl whom my father always called "Fancy Nickel"---now a doctor's wife in Pennsylvania.

Incidentally, I would love to hear, with an abject apology, from a boy named Allen Stewart who lived on 87th Street in Brooklyn in 1941, and who borrowed my copy of "Mr. Popper's Penguins" when I was four years old. AND NEVER RETURNED IT.

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Comments

Guest
Kristy Elam Monday, 29 November 1999

I taught The Giver several years ago, and had a parent complaint over it. I convinced her to let her son read the book. The kids kept a response journal and in the beginning his journals were very negative. He felt this book was against his religion, but by the end of the book his journals were thought-filled, intense, full of great internal discussions, and he said it was one of his favorite books he'd ever read. I've been reading it during downtime in my classroom, and many kids just randomly tell me how much they loved that book. To ban a book like The Giver is an injustice. It has impacted more kids than I can even begin to count, and they thought a little more about their own world and hopefully made them appreciate it a little more.

Guest
ojimenez Monday, 29 November 1999

It must be difficult to endlessly cogitate about, few-new, few- surprising, questions about a work completed nearly two decades ago.
I often wonder if authors, like the late Mr. Salinger, are drawn to seclusion by the thought of having to endlessly justify a word, a thought, a paragraph of a work that is no longer in the author's consciousness.
I bet if I had to deal with it I would just scream.. "c'mon people, time to move on!" but then, the book is new to every new generation of readers, so are the questions, I imagine.
Must be tough! Yet from this dialogue I sense there's still a lot of care and sincerity in the answers.
It was in 2008 when I read THE GIVER to see if it was suitable for my then 8-year-old daughter to read, and became mesmerized by it.
The one part of the book that never left my mind, after becoming familiar with the writer's biography, was the opening of the book..... How terrifyingly sad it was to sense what that needle-nose single- pilot Jet, meant to the writer of the book.... but then, it all made sense.
Cheers!

Guest
lois Lowry Monday, 29 November 1999

Actually, my son was still alive when I wrote THE GIVER in 1992. He had served in the first Gulf War as a fighter pilot by then. It was later, in 1995, he was killed in a training accident because a mechanic had made a mistake in servicing the plane and had replaced two parts backwards.

Guest
Tori Bragg Monday, 29 November 1999

Dear mrs. Lois Lowry,
You will have to excuse the spelling mistakes I make. I am 14 years old and in English class we are reading the book you wrote, know as "The Giver".
It is a wonderful book, which really gets a person thinking about the future. Anyway, what I wanted to know was if at the very end of the book, last chapter, last page, if Jonas and Gabe die. Half of my class thinks he dies the other half thinks he found what he ( meaning Jonas ) wanted. Do you think he dies or survives?

Guest
Katherine Monday, 29 November 1999

The story of Jonas and Gabe and the Giver have had such a profound impact on my life! I first read the book in 4th or 5th grade when I was very young and it helped shape my ideas, viewpoints and perceptions of the world from then on. I'm currently an adult college student at the age of 23 and am writing about the book for my literature class. I was wondering what the one, most important message you were trying to send to readers was and what meaning you would like them to take away when they are done reading the book. I would be absolutely delighted to hear your response and share it with my class. Thank you so much for writing this book on behalf of everyone I know who has read and been touched by it. You're writing in this book and so many others (Messenger, Number the Stars, the Anastasia books, etc) inspired me to become a lifetime reader and writer and I thank you indefinitely for you could never know how your books helped me escape from a frightening childhood.

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