Title: Gathering Blue
Author: Lois Lowry
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Publication Date: Reissue September 2012
Audience: 10 and up
Summary: Kira, lame since birth, has just left her mother’s body in the Field of Leaving and she faces a dangerous and uncertain future. Her father was destroyed by beasts in a hunt and she lives in a village that discards weak and useless persons like herself, that fights and quarrels for food and goods. Her neighbors are ready to stone her for her plot of ground but she is miraculously saved by the Council of Guardians. Her skill with weaving and embroidery equip her to repair and care for the Singer’s Robe, a robe that tells the history of the people from the beginning, through ruin, rebuilding growth, and ruin…Kira (her two-syllable name indicates that she is at least 12) is brought to live in the Council Edifice, a survival of the last Ruin, an elaborate building with indoor plumbing. She is supplied with abundant food, comfort, and all the supplies she will need to restore the robe worn by the Singer at the village Gathering each year. At this event the village hears their history sung. Jamison, one of the guardians, checks on Kira’s work each day and tells her that she will finish the story that is incomplete on the Robe. Kira’s life is brightened by a single-syllable boy, Matt, from the Fen and his dog, Branch. He often accompanies her to see Annabella who is teaching Kira to dye threads. She has no way to make blue and suggests that beyond their village blue can be found. Matt sets off to find this blue while Kira, prepares for the Gathering and Song. This event reveals to Kira some of the dangerous secrets of the Guardians and the community. Matt returns with the plant for blue and with Kira’s father, Christopher, who had been attacked and left for dead in the hunt. He lives now in the village of healing or broken people and wants to take her back with him. Kira makes a difficult choice between leaving with her father or staying to complete the story on the Singer’s Robe.
Literary elements at work in the story: Kira’s story is a futuristic, dystopian novel but it could easily be read as a story of a European village in the dark ages. Only the Council Edifice is a reminder of a more advanced civilization in the past. In contrast to the community of sameness in The Giver, the disorder and discord of this village are palpable. The concrete information about plants and dies gives credibility to the story.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? Different roles for men and women are clearly defined. Girls are not allowed to learn to read. Disparity between those raised in the Fen (swampy slum) and people of the village creates a class distinction. Special abilities are recognized and used by the village.
Theological Conversation Partners: Again memory plays a crucial role in this story as in the life of the Christian community. There are echoes of Genesis as the Song begins. A contrast between how memory is kept alive in the village and in the church is a fruitful study. The value on life in the community and in the Christian life is another area to compare and explore, with special emphasis on the place of children. (Mark 10:13-15) The village where Christopher lives highlights different approaches to the treatment of immigrants and those with special needs. Kira’s lameness and her attitude toward it furnish an area for discussion. ( 2nd Cor 12:8-10 ) Finally, how Kira chooses to use her gift, opens up the question of stewardship and choices.
Faith Talk Questions:
- What is your impression of the village in which Kira lives? Is there any evidence of fairness or justice?
- What place did the Ruin Song have in the village life? Why was it important? What part does memory play in our community or national identity? Our personal identity?
- In what ways do Christians remember? Why?
- How are children valued in the community?
- Why is Kira’s life spared? Is she being treated kindly or being used?
- What is Kira’s attitude about her pain and crippled leg?
- Kira realizes that the Singer is chained, a prisoner, and that Thomas, Jo, and she herself are also prisoners. “The Guardians with their strength and cunning were forcing the children to describe the future that they wanted, not the one that could be.” What is Lowry saying about control of artistic expression and the future of children?
- Kira’s father describes the village of healing. What aspects of life there are good?
- Kira chooses to stay behind when her father leaves and use her gift to complete the robe? Why does she make this choice? What impact will it have on the village?
- Two sticks placed together on the Council Chamber wall are objects of worship though their meaning is no longer remembered. Do these represent the cross? Do we sometimes have crosses as jewelry or ornamentation when the meaning is forgotten?
Gathering Blue by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.