Lowry is considered one of the most important American children’s writers and only part of the full extent of what she’s accomplished is featured on this list.
1. The Giver
The Giver is Lowry’s best-known novel. It’s considered, as most of her books are, part of the YA, or young adult genre. It follows a twelve-year-old boy, Jonas, through a life-changing year in his life. His world, which is unlike that a reader will likely ever have encountered before, is walled in, emotionless and memory-less community. There, no one experiences strong emotions, positive or negative, and no one remembers a time before the community became what it is. When Jonas is named to be the new “Receiver of Memory,” or the person in charge of caring for the community’s collective memories and knowledge of its past, his perspective is transformed. He starts to see color and the truth that the community’s founders sought to hide from those inside.
2. Number the Stars
Number the Stars is told from the perceptive of Annemarie Johansen, a ten-year-old Jewish girl living in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1943. The story takes place during the third year of Nazi occupation in the country and describes what happens during the rescue of the Danish Jews, an effort to keep men, women, and children out of concentration camps. The protagonist shows courage throughout the novel as she risks her life to help her friend, Ellen. The title comes from Psalm 147:4, in which the stars are described as numbered and named by God. Number the Stars won the Newbery Medal in 1990.
3. Gathering Blue
Gathering Blue is the follow-up to Lowry’s famed The Giver. It is the second of four novels that make up the quartet. It is set in the same world as The Giver but features new characters. It was released in 2000 and follows Kira, an orphaned girl with a disabled leg who suffers under the structures of a society that does not value the disabled or the ill. The novel progresses similarly to The Giver in that Kira slowly learns more about her community. In the end, Lowry includes an allusion to Jonas from The Giver.
4. Crow Call
Crow Call is not one of Lowry’s most famous books, but it certainly deserves a spot on this list. Crow Call is a picture book illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline that tells the story of a girl reconnecting with her father after WWII. The father has been fighting in the War for years, longer than Liz can remember. Once he returns, they try to reconnect through poignant symbols of America, just as cherry pie and the sound of crows calling.
Messenger was published in 2004 and is the third in The Giver quartet. It takes place eight years after the events of The Giver and follows the characters from The Giver and Gathering Blue. The novel focuses primarily on Matty, a young boy who works as a message-bearer through the Forest that surrounds his village. The Forest is a terrible, animated place that everyone who lives in the village fears. Matty possesses a “gift” that he finds hard to understand and control— the power to heal. He uses it to heal the forest and those in the greatest need.
Son is the final book in The Giver quartet. It follows Claire, the birth mother of the infant Gabriel who features so prominently in The Giver. She’s obsessed with finding her son, who Jonas took into his care at the end of The Giver. The book is written in three parts, Before, Between, and Beyond. The first section takes place in Jonas’s community before the events of The Giver. Between occurs after Claire is rescued from the beach and depicts Claire’s decision to sacrifice her age to find her son. In Beyond, Lowry depicts Gabriel as a young man with the power to read people’s minds, something she refers to as “veering.”
Gossamer was written in 2006 and follows Littlest. She lives in a small colony of “dream-givers,” people who touch, gather bits of color, sounds, etc., and use them to create dreams for humans, sometimes animals. The story follows Littlest and her teacher when they visit an old woman’s home and the approach of the Sinisteeds, dark creatures who give humans nightmares. Through the novel, Littlest attempts to help John, a troubled foster child who the Sinisteeds are pursuing.
8. A Summer to Die
A Summer to Die was Lowry’s first novel. It was inspired by the death of Lowry’s older sister, at twenty-eight, from cancer. The plot focuses on Meg, the younger of two sisters, and the family’s move to a new, small country house. The sisters’ squabble, as siblings do, but soon things take a turn for the worse and the elder sister, Molly, is diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, a fatal disease.
9. The Silent Boy
The Silent Boy was published in 2003 and is categorized as a young adult novel and a novel of historical fiction. It’s set in the 20th century on a farm. Lowry was inspired to write the novel after looking through found photographs. The narrator is Katy Thatcher, the daughter of a physician who comes to care for a local boy with a mental condition and the inability to speak. The novel was adapted into a play in 2008 that toured throughout the United States. The Silent Boy is loved by adults and young adult readers.
10. Find a Stranger, Say Goodbye
Find a Stranger, Say Goodbye follows Natalie Armstrong’s quest to discover her birth parents her gave her up when she was a baby. While her life might outwardly seem perfect (accepted into a good school, loving family, perfect boyfriend), she struggles with the knowledge, or lack thereof, of her true biological parents. When she’s seventeen, she decides that she wants answers to her questions. She sets out on a trip to discover who her parents were and what led them to the choices they made.