Lois Lowry

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Lois Lowry
Lowry at the 2016 Texas Book Festival
Lowry at the 2016 Texas Book Festival
BornLois Ann Hammersberg[1]
(1937-03-20) March 20, 1937 (age 87)
Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, U.S.
GenreChildren's literature, fantasy
Notable works
Notable awardsNewbery Medal
1990, 1994
Margaret Edwards Award
Donald Grey Lowry
(m. 1956; div. 1977)

Lois Ann Lowry (/ˈlaʊəri/;[2] née Hammersberg; born March 20, 1937) is an American writer. She is the author of several books for children and young adults, including The Giver Quartet, Number the Stars, and Rabble Starkey. She is known for writing about difficult subject matters, dystopias, and complex themes in works for young audiences.

Lowry has won two Newbery Medals: for Number the Stars in 1990 and The Giver in 1994. Her book Gooney Bird Greene won the 2002 Rhode Island Children's Book Award.

Many of her books have been challenged or even banned in some schools and libraries. The Giver, which is common in the curricula in some schools, has been prohibited in others.


Lowry was born on March 20, 1937, in Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, to Katherine Gordon Landis and Robert E. Hammersberg.[3][4]: xi  Her maternal grandfather, Merkel Landis, a banker, created the Christmas Club savings program in 1910.[5]: 24  Initially, Lowry's parents named her "Cena" for her Norwegian grandmother, but upon hearing the news, her grandmother telegraphed and instructed Lowry's parents that the child should have an American name.[5]: 12 

Lowry was the middle child. She had an older sister named Helen, and a younger brother called Jon.[6] Helen died of cancer in 1962,[3] but Lowry and her brother still share a close relationship.[6]

Lowry's father was an army dentist, whose work moved the family all over the United States and to many parts of the world.[3] Lowry and her family moved from Hawaii to Brooklyn, New York, in 1940, when Lowry was three years old.[3] They relocated in 1942 to her mother's hometown in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, when Lowry's father was deployed to the Pacific during World War II.[3] Lowry began reading at three years old, and after first grade, she skipped second at the Franklin School in Carlisle.[3]

After World War II ended, Lowry moved with her family to Tokyo, Japan, where her father was stationed from 1948 to 1952.[3] Lowry attended seventh and eighth grades at the American School in Japan, a school for dependents of those involved in the military. She returned to the United States when the Korean War began in 1950.[3] Lowry and her family lived in Carlisle again in 1950, where she attended her freshman year in high school before moving to Governors Island, New York, when her father was assigned to First Army Headquarters there. Lowry briefly attended Curtis High School, on Staten Island,[3] then graduated from high school at Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn Heights, New York, attending from 1952 to 1954. She then attended Pembroke College, which became fully merged with Brown University in 1971.[3][4]: xi  There she met her future husband, Donald Grey Lowry.

Lowry left the university in 1956 after her marriage to Donald Grey Lowry, a U.S. Navy officer.[3] The couple moved several times from San Diego to New London, Connecticut, to Key West, Florida, to Charleston, South Carolina, to Cambridge, Massachusetts and finally to Portland, Maine.[4] They had two daughters, Alix and Kristin, and two sons, Grey and Benjamin.[3], While raising her children, Lowry completed her degree in English literature at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, Maine, in 1972.[3] After earning her bachelor of arts, she continued at the university to pursue graduate studies.[3]

In 1977, at 40 years old, Lowry's first book, A Summer to Die, was published.[3] During that same year, Donald Lowry and she divorced.[3] Two years later she met Martin Small in Boston and was in a relationship with him for over 30 years, until his death in 2011.[7][8][9] From 2014 she has been in a relationship with Howard Corwin, a retired physician.[3]

Lowry's son Grey, a USAF major and flight instructor, was killed in the crash of his fighter plane in 1995.[10] Lowry acknowledged that it was the most difficult day of her life, and she said, "His death in the cockpit of a warplane tore away a piece of my world, but it left me, too, with a wish to honor him by joining the many others trying to find a way to end conflict on this very fragile earth."[11]

As of 2023, Lowry divides her time between Maine and Naples, Florida, and she still remains an active writer and speaker.[3]

Writing career[edit]

Lois Lowry at an event for the film adaption of The Giver in 2014

Lowry first began her career as a freelance journalist. In the 1970s, she submitted a short story to Redbook magazine, which was intended for adult audiences, but was written from a child's perspective.[3] An editor working at Houghton Mifflin who read the Redbook story suggested to Lowry that she should write a children's book.[3] Lowry agreed and wrote her first book A Summer to Die, which was later published by Houghton Mifflin in 1977 when she was 40 years old.[3] The book featured the theme of terminal illness, which is based on Lowry's own experiences with her sister Helen.[3]

Lowry continued to write about difficult topics in her next publication, Autumn Street (1979), which explores themes of coping with racism, grief, and fear at a young age.[3] The novel is told from the perspective of a young girl who is sent to live with her grandfather during World War II, which is also based on her own experiences of having her father deployed during World War II. Of all the books she has published, Autumn Street is considered to be her most autobiographical.[3][1]

In the same year of publishing Autumn Street, Lowry also published her novel Anastasia Krupnik, the first installment in the Anastasia series.[1] The series, which touches on serious themes with a humorous approach,[3] continued through to 1995.

Lowry published Number the Stars in 1989, which received multiple awards, including the 1990 Newbery Medal.[12] Lowry received another Newbery in 1994, for The Giver (1993).[12] After publishing The Giver, she went on to publish another three companion novels that take place in the same universe: Gathering Blue (2000), Messenger (2004), and finally Son (2012), which tied all three of the previous books together. Collectively, they are referred to as The Giver Quartet.[1] The New York Times described the quartet as "less a speculative fiction than a kind of guide for teaching children (and their parents, if they're listening carefully) how to be a good person."[10]

In early 2020, she released a book of poetry, called On the Horizon, charting her childhood memories of life in Hawaii and Tokyo, and the lives lost during the attack on Pearl Harbor and the bombing of Hiroshima.[13]

During the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, American publishing company Scholastic Corporation asked Lowry to write a new introduction to Like the Willow Tree, a story of a young girl living in Portland, Maine, who was orphaned during the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. The book was first published in 2011,[14] before being reissued by Scholastic in September 2020.[15]

Critical reception and banning[edit]

Throughout her works, Lowry has explored several complex issues, including racism, terminal illness, murder, the Holocaust, and the questioning of authority, among other challenging topics. Her writing on such matters has accumulated both praise and criticism.[16] The Chicago Tribune has said a theme running through all of her work is "the importance of human connections."[17]

By 2000, eight of her books had been challenged in schools and libraries in the United States.[16] In particular, The Giver received a diversity of reactions from schools in America after its release in 1993. While some schools adopted it as a part of the mandatory curriculum, others prohibited the book's inclusion in their classroom studies.[10][18] According to the New York Times in 2012, The Giver had been perennially near the top of the America Library Association's list of banned and challenged books since its publication.[10] In a 2012 review of Son, the New York Times said the 1993 publication of The Giver had "shocked adult and child sensibilities alike".[19] In 2020, Time magazine described The Giver as "a staple of both middle school curricular and banned book lists."[20]

According to biographer Joel Chaston, Lowry's most critically acclaimed works are Rabble Starkey, Number the Stars, and The Giver.[4]: x 


Biographer Joel Chaston described her as "clearly one of the most important twentieth-century American writers for children".[4]: ix 

Robin Wasserman, a writer for The New York Times, said "In many ways, Lowry invented the contemporary young adult dystopian novel", pointing out that in 1993 it was "unusual and unsettling" for children's literature to address topics of political oppression, euthanasia, suicide, or murder.[19]


Lowry won the Newbery Medal in 1990 for her novel Number the Stars, and again in 1994 for The Giver.[12] For Number the Stars, Lowry has also received the National Jewish Book Award in 1990, in the Children's Literature category,[21] and the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award in 1991.[22]

In 1994, Lowry was awarded the Regina Medal.[3][23]

In 2002, her book Gooney Bird Greene won the Rhode Island Children's Book Award.[24]

Lowry has been nominated three times for the biennial international Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest recognition available to creators of children's books.[25][26] She was a finalist in 2000, a U.S. nominee in 2004, and a finalist in 2016.[27]

In 2007, she received the Margaret Edwards Award from the American Library Association for her contributions writing for teens.[28] The ALA Margaret Edwards Award recognizes one writer and a particular body of work for "significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature".[29] Lowry won the annual award in 2007 for The Giver (published 1993). The citation observed that "The Giver was one of the most frequently challenged books from 1990 to 2000" — that is, the object of "a formal, written attempt to remove a book from a library or classroom." According to the panel chair, "The book has held a unique position in teen literature. Lowry's exceptional use of metaphors and subtle complexity make it a book that will be discussed, debated and challenged for years to come...a perfect teen read."[28]

She's also won a Boston Globe-Hornbook Award, an Anne V. Zarrow Award, a Golden Kite Award, and a Hope S. Dean Memorial Award.[3]

In 2011 she gave the May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture; her lecture was titled "UNLEAVING: The Staying Power of Gold".[30] She has been awarded honorary degrees from six universities,[31] including a Doctorate of Letters by Brown University in 2014,[32][33]St. Mary's College,[34] University of Southern Maine, Elmhurst College, Wilson College, and Lesley University.[35]




  1. ^ With the release of Son (2012), the Giver series has been redefined as a finished "quartet" of fantasy novels. While Gathering Blue (2000) and Messenger (2004) were only loosely related companions to The Giver (1993), Son ties all three storylines together, with "heroes and fates colliding in a final, epic struggle."
    Wasserman, Robin (October 14, 2012). "The Searcher". The New York Times Book Review. The New York Times Co.: 1. Retrieved November 2, 2012.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Lois Lowry". Biography.com. Archived from the original on April 14, 2019. Retrieved April 14, 2019.
  2. ^ "Audio Name Pronunciation: Lois Lowry". TeachingBooks. Retrieved January 8, 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af Fitzgerald, Thomas (Fall 2020). "Lois Lowry". Pennsylvania Center for the Book at Pennsylvania State University. Archived from the original on September 29, 2020. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d e Chaston, Joel (1997). Lois Lowry. New York: Twayne Publishers. ISBN 0-8057-4034-1. OCLC 36621742.
  5. ^ a b Albert, Lisa Rondinelli (2008). Lois Lowry: The Giver of Stories and Memories. Enslow Publishers, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7660-2722-0.
  6. ^ a b "My Brother Jon". Lois Lowry. Archived from the original on February 7, 2021. Retrieved April 14, 2019.
  7. ^ "What Lois Lowry Remembers". The New Yorker. December 26, 2021. Retrieved October 1, 2022.
  8. ^ "Lois Lowry". Better Reading. Retrieved October 1, 2022.
  9. ^ "Martin I. Small Obituary (2011) Boston Globe". Legacy.com. Retrieved October 1, 2022.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h Kois, Dan (October 3, 2012). "The Children's Author Who Actually Listens to Children". New York Times. Archived from the original on May 19, 2015. Retrieved March 5, 2014.
  11. ^ "Press Release for The Silent Boy published by Houghton Mifflin Company". Houghton Mifflin. Archived from the original on July 19, 2017. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
  12. ^ a b c "Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922–Present" Archived October 24, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). ALA. Retrieved 2012-11-02.
  13. ^ "The Giver: Interview with Lois Lowry". Mythaxis Review.
  14. ^ Keyes, Bob (April 9, 2020). "Ten years ago, Lois Lowry wrote a book depicting Portland in a pandemic. Now, she's rewriting the intro". Press Herald. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
  15. ^ Lowry, Lois (September 2020). Like the Willow Tree. Scholastic, Incorporated. ISBN 978-1-338-72432-5.
  16. ^ a b Hatcher, Thurston (September 26, 2000). "Book challenges drop, but librarians, writers remain wary". CNN. Archived from the original on January 25, 2021. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
  17. ^ Isaacson, Noah (October 19, 2003). "Lois Lowry remains true to her readers". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on February 7, 2021. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
  18. ^ Doll, Jen (August 23, 2012). "Reading Lois Lowry's 'The Giver' as an Adult". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on February 7, 2021. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
  19. ^ a b Wasserman, Robin (October 11, 2012). "The Searcher (Published 2012)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on May 29, 2017. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
  20. ^ a b "Lois Lowry in Conversation With a 10-Year-Old Reporter About Her New Book". Time. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
  21. ^ "Past Winners". Jewish Book Council. Archived from the original on March 8, 2020. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
  22. ^ "Newbury Award winner Lois Lowry to speak at Bates". News. August 1, 2005. Archived from the original on June 1, 2015. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
  23. ^ "Regina Medal Recipients – Catholic Library Association". Cathla.org. Archived from the original on March 18, 2020. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  24. ^ a b "RICBA 1991-2009". wayback.archive-it.org. Archived from the original on September 25, 2017. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
  25. ^ "2004" Archived December 1, 2017, at the Wayback Machine. Hans Christian Andersen Awards. International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY).
      "Hans Christian Andersen Awards" Archived August 6, 2018, at the Wayback Machine. IBBY. Retrieved 2013-07-23.
  26. ^ "Candidates for the Hans Christian Andersen Awards 1956–2002" Archived January 14, 2013, at archive.today. The Hans Christian Andersen Awards, 1956–2002. IBBY. Gyldendal. 2002. Pages 110–18. Hosted by Austrian Literature Online (literature.at). Retrieved 2013-07-17.
  27. ^ "The Hans Christian Andersen Award Nominees for 2016". Archived from the original on August 9, 2020. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  28. ^ a b "2007 Margaret A. Edwards Award" Archived October 19, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). American Library Association (ALA).
      "Edwards Award" Archived April 5, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. YALSA. ALA. Retrieved 2013-10-12.
  29. ^ "About the Edwards Award". Archived from the original on August 9, 2020. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  30. ^ "SLCL to Host 2011 Arbuthnot Lecture with Lois Lowry – St. Louis County Library". Archived from the original on October 14, 2014. Retrieved October 11, 2014.
  31. ^ Razzaq, Zane. "Celebrated children's author Lois Lowry to speak in Sudbury on Saturday". The Sudbury Town Crier. Archived from the original on April 4, 2019. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
  32. ^ "Brown confers nine honorary degrees". Brown University. May 25, 2014. Archived from the original on May 28, 2014. Retrieved May 27, 2014.
  33. ^ Pina, Alisha (May 25, 2014). "Brown graduates told to question authority, challenge labels". The Providence Journal. Archived from the original on October 16, 2018. Retrieved May 27, 2014. Also to receive honorary degrees were Lois Lowry, award-winning children's author best known for "The Giver"
  34. ^ "Saint Mary's begins search for 2021 commencement speaker, honorary degree recipients // The Observer". The Observer. January 30, 2020. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
  35. ^ "Lois Lowry". Archived from the original on September 30, 2014. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
  36. ^ a b c "Your Move, J.P.!". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
  37. ^ Rosen, Martha, Luann Toth, and Virginia M. J. Suhr (May 1990). "Your Move, J.P.! (book)". School Library Journal. 36 (5): 107.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
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  39. ^ Lowry, Lois (December 13, 2020). "Governors Island Teenager". Metropolitan Diary. The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on December 21, 2020. Retrieved December 20, 2020.
  40. ^ McMurtrie, John (May 1, 2020). "Lois Lowry's Ode to the Fallen in World War II". The New York Times. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
  41. ^ "The Giver". Movie Insider. Archived from the original on October 10, 2014. Retrieved October 11, 2014.
  42. ^ "The Willoughbys". IMDB. Archived from the original on May 2, 2020. Retrieved April 29, 2020.

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