None of my students thought Jonas was dead at the end. Yet, “Does Jonas die?” was the most asked question about The Giver, according to Lois Lowry in her speech a few years ago at the Faye B. Kaigler Book Festival. For seven years, I read the book aloud to eighth graders. My students and I never even thought of that question since we felt assured at the end that hope and joy had come to Jason and the baby Gabriel. We did ponder a different question.
Seeing the movie brought back memories of discussions that rose from the book. I give credit to parents who were willing, even eager, for their children to think and reason about difficult issues and never questioned my selection of this frequently banned book.
As always, I wondered if the movie would measure up to the book. Though the time frame and age of the protagonists were altered, I was reassured that Lois herself felt the movie had remained true to the spirit of the book.
I enjoyed the movie and found Lois’s assessment essentially correct. Of course, when one loves a book that is made into a movie, there is almost inevitably something amiss or lacking. I found the mark on the arm that distinguished those destined to become The Receiver less effective than the “pale eyes” of the book. I did, however, like the hand to hand transition of memories as Jonas and The Giver faced each other better than the book’s version of giving them with The Giver’s hands on Jonas’s back as he lay on a bed.
In the end, I would give my usual evaluation when I have enjoyed both a book and the movie made from it. The movie was good, but the book was better. I recommend experiencing both.
My different question about the book requires a spoiler alert so read further at your own discretion. In the very end of the book as Jonas and Gabriel approach Elsewhere, “Suddenly he was aware with certainty and joy that below, ahead, they were waiting for him; and that they were waiting, too, for the baby.” Since the time is obviously Christmas with its room filled with lights of red, blue, and yellow, my question is “Which baby – Gabriel or the One normally associated with Christmas?”
Did I ask Lois the answer when I had the opportunity at the Book Festival? No. I love the ambiguity.