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Gathering Blue

by Lois Lowry

Book Club: A Literature-Based Curriculum discusses Gathering Blue within a themed multi-book unit along with three other stories: Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis, Monkey Island by Paula Fox, and Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli.

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Below you will find a synopsis, further reading materials, discussion topics, and reviews that you might find useful during your teaching of Gathering Blue.

A Synopsis

Kira faces an uncertain future when she is left alone after her mother’s sudden death. She lives in a primitive village where the lives of ordinary people are marked by greed, anger, and cruelty. Because Kira has a physical disability, she is shunned by her hostile neighbors, who see her as a burden. They want her banished from the village. Kira is summoned to judgment by the Council of Guardians and is surprised to find out that the Council has plans for her future. Because of her embroidery skills, she is taken to live in the Council Edifice and given the task of restoring a special robe worn at an important annual ceremony. She is treated well, but her creativity is monitored and controlled by authorities. Kira’s natural curiosity, her friendship with a young village boy, and her desire to find woad—the plant that will allow her to make blue thread—eventually lead her to learn disturbing truths about the world in which she lives. Kira is tempted to escape, but she decides to stay where she is and try to use her art to bring truth and a better future to her village.

Further Reading and Links

The following sites can be used to support and enrich the Book Club unit for Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry.

About the Author and the Book

  • Lois Lowry — This is the author's official website. It includes a biography, speeches, videos, and other fun things, including a part about Gathering Blue.
  • Learn More About Lois Lowry — This page has a photo of the author, the text of her Newbery Award acceptance speech from 1994, and other articles.
  • A Video Interview with Lois Lowry — The Reading Rockets site offers video clips from an interview with Lois Lowry, as well as a transcript of the interview and a biography.
  • Lois Lowry Interview Transcript — This site presents an interview between the author and Scholastic's Online Reading Club.
  • Common Sense Media — This review of the book gives it 4 out of 5 stars. You can read details about the book and user reviews.
  • The New York Times — The NYT archive provides another review of the book.

Different Forms of Art

  • Embroidery — Learn more about Kira’s embroidery skills. The AOK Corral site explains how to embroider, with step-by-step instructions for beginners. Besides the tutorial, it lists the materials needed and has pictures for easier understanding.
  • Dyes from Plants — Gardening Know How educates visitors about how to make dyes with the help of flowers, roots, nuts, and fruits. The site lists what elements produce what colors and tells how to create actual dyes. A similar activity is described here, along with a more comprehensive list of the plants that can create various colors.
  • Dyeing Techniques — The company Rit, which produces many dyes, provides this site. Here you can find fun dyeing projects and information about different techniques.
  • Learn About Art — The National Gallery site is loaded with all kinds of information about art. This page is a gateway to paintings, artists, terms, collections, and much more.
  • History of Woodcarving — The Woodcarver's Cabin provides information about the history of carving.

Related Topics

  • Funeral Customs by Religion, Ethnicity, and Culture — This site explains death rituals and customs for many different groups of people.
  • Plants in the Novel — The Botanical site offers information about a large collection of plants and herbs. Most plant entries are accompanied by an image and explanations about history, uses, cultivation, and so on.

Big Theme Questions

What is the meaning of value?

What do you consider valuable?

How do you determine the value of something?

Why are some things more valuable than others?

What intangibles—things that cannot be seen, touched, tasted, heard, or smelled—have value?

Outline of Lesson Plan | Discussion Topics | Writing Prompts

The following section can be used to get discussions started in your classroom. It is based on the themed multi-book Lesson Plan within Book Club: A Literature-Based Curriculum. The Lesson Plan includes blackline masters for students that support the writing prompts. The writing prompts provided are meant as suggestions only. As students become more comfortable with the Book Club format, they will certainly have ideas and questions that go beyond the prompts. Consider giving students “free choice” as a log option. Book Club Reading Logs help students respond to literature and organize ideas as they participate in Book Club.

Chapters 1–2 | Literary Elements: Setting

  • What do you learn about setting (the time and place in which events occur) in this first reading assignment?
  • What kinds of things seem to be valued in the setting in which the book takes place? Explain.

Chapters 3–4 | Comprehension: Characters

  • Describe the main character, Kira. Explain how the author reveals her traits (provide details, sample dialogue, description).
  • What is most important to Kira at this point in the book?
  • So far, which characters do you like or dislike?

Chapters 5–6 | Response to Literature: A Little Help from Our Friends

  • Describe a time when a relative, a friend, a neighbor, or even a person you didn’t know very well helped you with something. Maybe the person did you a favor, gave you something you needed, made you laugh, or just gave you some good advice. How did you feel when you were helped?
  • Describe a character (or characters) from your reading who helps Kira in some way. How is she affected?

Chapters 7–8 | Literary Elements: Imagery

  • What images does the author use to help you see a scene or moment in the book? Write down specific words and phrases that stand out to you.
  • In a paragraph, use imagery to describe something that’s valuable or important to you.

Chapters 9–10 | Literary Elements: Point of View

  • Describe the point of view of the narrator. Support your response with details, words, and phrases.
  • Different people value different things. Something that seems unimportant or foolish to one person could be extremely valuable to another person. Describe something that is valuable to a specific character in your reading.

Chapters 11–12 | Comprehension: Plot and Sequence; Prediction

  • What questions are raised in your mind by events in the book? What is one thing you predict will happen next?
  • Describe one event in the book so far that has had a strong effect on Kira.
  • Does Kira now value different things than she valued at the beginning of the book? Explain.

Chapters 13–14 | Response to Literature: Making Value Choices

  • In today’s reading, what struggle or problem does Kira deal with?
  • How would you feel if you were in her place? What worries would you have?

Chapters 15–16 | Composition: Diary Entry

  • What advice would you give Kira if you could speak with her?
  • Review the predictions you made earlier in the unit. Have you been surprised by anything? Explain.
  • Has anything in the book made you angry or sad? Explain.

Chapters 17–19 | Response to Literature: Big Theme Questions

  • What is your favorite part of the book so far? Why does this story part appeal to you?
  • Predict how the book will end. Give reasons for your predictions.
  • What role does setting play in shaping the values of characters?

Chapters 20–23 | Response to Literature: Analyzing Story Endings

  • Did you like the ending of the book? Why or why not?
  • What do Kira's experiences teach her about value?
  • Do you respect Kira’s choices and values? Why or why not?