Finding the perfect book to read always presented its difficulties in the latter years of elementary school and throughout middle school, as there are limited options for the puberty-stricken. It’s like being in a scene from “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” — most books are either too old or too young, and very few are “just right.”
Lois Lowry: “In the Dreamworld, It Doesn’t Matter”
Today at 4 p.m.
This all changed in 1993, when Generation Y was introduced to a book that would alter children’s literature for good: Louis Lowry’s “The Giver.” This beloved classic looks at a dystopian society through the eyes of a child. Though most of us are past our adolescent years, Lowry’s visit to the University today for the Sarah Marwil Lamstein 5th Annual Children’s Literature Lecture will serve for many as a portal to the past.
With 35 children’s books under her belt, Lowry continues to write from her home in Cambridge, Mass. Though best known for her two Newbery Medal novels, “The Giver” and “Number the Stars,” Lowry has also written a range of other books, including her latest, “Bless This Mouse,” which came out on March 21.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Lowry said she is looking forward to her visit to Ann Arbor, though she wants to keep the content of her lecture under wraps. Her talk is titled “In the Dreamworld, It Doesn’t Matter.”
“This particular title comes from an incident in my not-too-distant past with those words having been said,” Lowry said. “And so I thought they lent themselves to a talk about imagination and all that stuff that goes into a dream world.”
Lowry makes her return to Ann Arbor after an earlier post as writer-in-residence in the Residential College. The experience of living in East Quad is one the author will always remember.
“At one point I hung a handwritten sign on my door in the middle of the night that said, ‘Out of the respect for the extremely elderly person trying to sleep in this room, can you keep the noise down,’ ” Lowry said. “Besides from that, it was a very pleasant experience.”
Though her name might roll off many students’ tongues, Lowry had no idea her career would end up as it has. As a photographer and freelance journalist in the 1970s, Lowry caught the eye of an editor at Houghton Mifflin who suggested that she write a children’s book.
“They perceived that I was someone who was able to look out of the eyes and perceptions of a child,” Lowry said. “A lot of writers — even very successful writers for adults — are not able to write for kids. It is because they don’t have that particular capacity to put themselves back into the perceptions of a child. And for some reason, that’s easy and comfortable for me.”
Lowry found tremendous success in this endeavor, particularly in writing fiction novels.
“I think fiction is a good way — this is true for anyone of any age — of rehearsing what you haven’t experienced yet,” Lowry said. “If you move along through the reading of a book — identifying with the main character — facing what the main character does, in a way you’re rehearsing for how you will deal with those things when you face them yourself later on.”
Lowry’s works often contain material that some might deem too sophisticated for her audience, diving into complex issues such as terminal illness, utopian societies, racism and the Holocaust. Yet, her writing resonates with the reader.
“If a book is good, it doesn’t hit a kid over the head with ‘Issues’ with a capital ‘I’ or ‘Problems’ with a capital ‘P,’ ” Lowry said. “It simply tells a good story, which is something that is intrinsic to us.”
Lowry explained that she enjoys problem-solving just as much as the characters in her stories do. Though she admits that more intense books become draining to write after a while, the thought process is enriching.
“ ‘The Giver,’ the two books that follow it and the fourth one that I’m writing now, fall into a vague category — some people call it fantasy or soft science fiction,” Lowry said. “Those are fun to do because they require speculation on my part and an element of magical realism.”
Taking on the role of the main character in her best-known work, Lois Lowry herself will be the “giver” of wisdom today as she helps foster interest in children’s literature on campus.
“Writing for kids has proven to be so satisfying for me that I (haven’t) written for adults for some years,” Lowry said.