Tomorrow is Monday and it is the day when we usually share what we've been reading over the week. I have read several picture books and I will share those, but the New York Times Book Review on Son by Lois Lowry convinced me to buy the hard-cover yesterday afternoon and it is worthy of its own post and its own day. I read it until I fell asleep last night and finished it when I woke up this morning. When any of my family members came in to talk to me, I kept having to excuse myself (as politely as possible) because there were these two dimensional characters that were so important to me!
The themes and messages of Son are for all ages. Claire is the main character and she is on a quest to find her son; the strength of a mother's love for her child is a strong message of the book. However, there is so much more to think about and discuss. As in previous books of The Giver quartet, characters in Son have special powers. Spoiler alert--one of the characters has a special power to enter other people and experience their feelings. What incredible opportunities to talk about empathy this offers! This character gains power because he can know what other people are feeling. Emotional intelligence is one of the most important skills that we can teach young people of the 21st century and Lois Lowry offers us such powerful opportunities.
As in The Giver, she also includes political messages, but also delves into moral messages, as well. For educators, there are even some messages about teaching and project-based learning. Some of the characters have to wrestle with what they are willing to "trade" for something they really want. These dilemmas again offer incredible opportunities to talk about what traits define us and what life would be like if we were to give them up permanently. What in life is worth having and at what cost? What choices do we make and how do we handle regret? Without violence, blood, or made-for-Hollywood battles, this book delivers tension and page-turning suspense, asking and answering these questions.
In the original land of Son, the roles of individuals are assigned and the concepts of birth-mothers, artificial insemination, and Cesarean sections are ones that could render this book inappropriate for upper-elementary students. For strong readers, there are exquisite descriptions, foreshadowing, parallel plots, and symbolism woven into a magical plot. As a read-aloud, it would be challenging since it is so long, but if anyone tries it, I'd love to hear how it goes. I will re-read many parts of this book with a pen and post-its nearby and I can't wait to have people read it and talk about it with me. Enjoy!