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One Book program to study 'The Giver'
Book news
Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Lois Lowry's classic young adult novel, "The Giver," is the focus of the county's One Book, One Community campaign that starts April 3.

Organized by the Allegheny County Library Association, the monthlong effort will present a series of programs based on the science-fiction novel that won the 1994 Newbery Medal as best children's novel of that year.

According to Lisa Dennis, chief children's librarian at Carnegie Library, "The Giver" is a powerful story that rewards thoughtful reading by children, teens and adults. Because Lowry offers more questions than answers as she explores one community's efforts to create a peaceful utopia, the book, and particularly the ending, is open to a variety of interpretations. Young Jonas, chosen to receive all of the suppressed memories of his people, finds himself at odds with the expectations of his world and chooses to set out into the unknown. He leaves behind a changed community.

Because Lowry carefully constructed her alternate world primarily by describing relationships and rules rather than a physical setting, the book doesn't seem the least bit dated. This emphasis on characters and connections also makes it difficult to identify a genre: Is it science fiction? Fantasy? Allegory? At the end, it doesn't matter what we call it or who it was written for or even what awards it won. What matters is that "The Giver" is a fascinating, thought-provoking, smoothly told tale that challenges each reader to consider the relative value of peace and prosperity vs. independence and emotion.

Because it is set in the future, the book will be a starting point for discussions on the shape of Allegheny County in the years to come, said ACLA's Beth Mellor.

"We plan an essay contest for students to come up with their hopes for how the county will look in the next 15-20 years," she said. "They will be read by County Executive Dan Onorato."

ACLA will release a full schedule of events in a few weeks, she said. Partners in the campaign are:

The county, Barnes & Noble, Duquesne University, Comcast, Highmark Blue Cross-Blue Shield and Joseph-Beth Booksellers.

For younger readers

The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh and the state's Office of Commonwealth Libraries joins with various other state agencies to present its version for youngsters, One Book, Every Young Child.

"If You Were a Penguin" by Wendell and Florence Minor is the focus book for this year-long campaign aimed at sparking early literacy efforts.

Working with local agencies, the effort provides educational and entertainment materials statewide.

For further information, paonebook.org.

Women in words

Bernice Johnson Reagon, a founder of the folk-gospel singing group, Sweet Honey in the Rock, headlines the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's "She Said: Women's Words" program March 15 at 7 p.m.

Joining Reagon at the Byham Theater will be poets Jan Beatty, CM Burroughs, Vanessa German, Kellee Maize and Stacey Waite with additional music from Soy Sos.

Reagon, recently retired from the singing group, is a veteran of the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Beatty, co-host of WYEP-FM's poetry program, "Prosody," is director of the Creative Writing Program at Carlow College; Burroughs teaches poetry and creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh; German is artist in residence at the New Hazlett Theater; Maize is also a dancer, songwriter and emcee; and Waite, won the 2004 Frank O'Hara Prize in Poetry.

Tickets are $10-$20 and can be ordered at 412-456-6666 or at the door.

Women in words, continued

Autumn House Press, the publisher headquartered on Mount Washington, has released a new poetry anthology, "When She Named Fire," a collection of work by 96 contemporary American female poets.

The editor is poet Alexander Hollander Budy, author of the Autumn House title, "Woman in the Painting." The anthology is $29.95. To order, autumnhouse.org.

Slammin' in Lawrenceville

Five performers -- Victor D. Infante, Lea C. Deschenes, Nikki Allen, Adriana Ramierza and Brian Francis -- with emcee D.J. Brewer offer up a night of slam poetry tonight at 9.

The spot is the New Amsterdam Pub, 4421 Butler St., Lawrenceville.

PEN/Faulkner fiction winner

Joseph O'Neill was the surprise winner of this year's $15,000 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction.

His post-Sept. 11 novel, "Netherland," was selected over the favorite, Richard Price's "Lush Life."

Here are the finalists who are awarded $5,000 each:

Price; Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum, "Ms. Hempel Chronicles"; Susan Choi, "A Person of Interest"; and Ron Rash, "Serena."

The award began in 1980.

Author visit

First-time novelist Phillipp Meyer ("American Rust") reads from his tale of blood and romance in Fayette County at 7 p.m. tomorrow in Joseph-Beth Booksellers, 2705 E. Carson St., South Side.

Contact Bob Hoover at 412-263-1634 or bhoover@post-gazette.com.
First published on March 3, 2009 at 12:00 am
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