Lois Lowry

American Writer

Lois Lowry is a well-loved young adult and children’s book author who is famed for taking on and successfully exploring difficult topics, such as racism, the Holocaust, and death. Lois Lowry is an American author of over 40 books for young adults and children. Her best-known novel, The Giveris a worldwide best-seller and a permanent feature in classrooms. Lowry won numerous awards for her contributions to teen/young adult and children’s literature.

Life Facts

  • Lois Lowry was born on March 20th, 1937, in Honolulu, Hawaii.
  • She won the Newbery Award for The Giver, published in 1993.
  • Gooney Bird Greene won the 2002 Rhode Island Children’s Book Award.
  • In 2007 she won the Margaret Edmunds Award from the American Library Association.
  • She’s written more than 40 books/stores for children and young adults.

Interesting Facts

  • Lowry’s parents originally wanted to name her “Cena” to honor her Norwegian grandmother and heritage. 
  • Her father, Robert E. Hammersberg, was an army dentist. 
  • She published her first book when she was forty years old. 
  • Lois Lowry’s son, Grey, was killed in a fighter plane crash in 1995. 
  • Her books often touch on difficult subjects like the Holocaust, racism, and illness. 

Discover more facts about Lois Lowry.

Famous Books and Stories by Lois Lowry

The Giver is Lowry’s best-known novel and one of her most creative. It follows the character of Jonas, a young boy whose part of an unnamed dystopian community that’s locked itself off from the rest of the world. There, the elderly and infirm are “released” or killed, and no one experiences any real emotion, negative or positive. After Jonas is selected to be the new “Receiver of Memory,” he learns more about his community’s darker sides.  Gooney Bird Greene is the first in a series of children’s novels following a second-grade girl, Gooney Bird Greene. She starts the book by transferring into a new second-grade class. She’s confident and always the center of attention. She tells autobiographical, seemingly magical tales about her life.  Number the Stars is a historical fiction novel about the Rosens, a Jewish family who escape from Denmark during World War II. It follows Annemarie Johansen, a young girl who lives with her mother, father, and sister in Copenhagen. Their family comes a part of a relocation effort, moving Danish Jews to Sweden where they’d be safe from the concentration camps.  A Summer to Die was Lowry’s first novel, published when she was forty years old. It was inspired by her experiences around her older sister’s cancer diagnosis and eventual passing when she was only twenty-eight. It is also in the genre of young adult fiction and follows the young of two sisters, Meg.  Anastasia Krupnik is the first book in a series of young adult novels focusing on a young girl named Anastasia. She deals with normal problems that any reader could relate to, from popularity to sibling conflicts and educational struggles. The book has often been challenged by schools and school boards for references to beer and suicide. It was adapted for the stage in 1998.  Explore more of Lois Lowry’s best books.

Early Life

Lois Lowry was born on March 20th, 1937, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Her parents named her “Cena” to honor her Norwegian grandmother and heritage, but that same grandmother quickly convinced them to change it to something American. She has two siblings, an older sister Helen, who died of cancer when she was twenty-eight, and a young brother, Jon, with whom she has a close relationship.  Her father, Robert E. Hammersberg, was an army dentist. His profession meant that the family moved around the United States, as well s to other countries, throughout Lois’ childhood. Robert was deployed to the Pacific during World War II. Her family moved to Tokyo after the war, where she went to junior high school with other military children. They later moved to New York, where she attended Brown University. She married Donald Grey Lowry in 1956. He was a U.S. Navy Officer. Together they had four children, two daughters, and two sons. While parenting, Lowry continued her education, getting a degree in literature from the University of Southern Maine in 1972. 

Literary Career

Lowry’s writing career began in the 1970s when she submitted a short story to Redbook magazine. After receiving positive feedback and being asked to write a children’s book, Lowry finished her first novel, A Summer to Die, in 1977 at the age of forty, the same year she and her husband divorced. It was based on her own experiences with her sister’s terminal disease. It is only one example of the many difficult topics Lowry confronts in her writing. In Autumn Street, published in 1979, she writes about racism and fear, again from a youthful perspective.   Lowry won the Newbery Medal in 1990 for her book Number the Stars, published in 1989. She won it again in 1994 for The Giver. Tragically, her son, Grey, was killed in a fighter plane crash in 1995. It is a day that Lowry says was the most difficult of her life.  Two lesser-known novels published after The Giver take place in the same universe, Gathering Blue and Messenger, published respectively in 2000 and 2004. Son, published in 2012, completes the quartet. Her novel Gooney Bird Greene won the 2002 Rhode Island Children’s Book Award. In 2007 she won the Margaret Edmunds Award from the American Library Association for her contribution to young adult/teen writing. When speaking about Lowry’s writing, the organization stated that she’d made a “significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature.”  Lowry still writes and lectures while splitting her time between homes in Massachusetts and Maine.

Influence from other Writers

 Lois Lowry was notably influenced by writers such as James Agee, Harper Lee, William Maxwell, and Margaret Atwood.

Literature by Lois Lowry

Explore literature by Lois Lowry below, created by the team at Book Analysis.