Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry is a popular children’s book author responsible for such critically acclaimed titles as ‘The Giver’ and ‘Number the Stars.’


Author Lois Lowry was born on March 20, 1937, in Honolulu, Hawaii. She published her first novel, A Summer to Die, in 1977. After this serious drama, Lowry showed her lighter side with 1979's Anastasia Krupnik, which became the first in a series of humorous books. She won her first Newbery Award for the 1989 novel Number the Stars. In 1993, Lowry received the honor a second time for The Giver, which would eventually become a 2014 film. More recent works include Son (2012) and Gooney Bird and All Her Charms (2013).

Early Life

Born Lois Ann Hammersberg on March 20, 1937, in Honolulu, Hawaii, Lois Lowry is one of America's most popular and versatile children's book authors. She has written in a variety of fictional forms, from the WWII tale Number the Stars to the lighthearted adventures of Anastasia Krupnik to the fantastical The Giver.

A shy and introverted child, Lowry loved to read. She was around 8 or 9 years old when she decided she wanted to be a writer. Her father was a dentist and Army officer, which led to her to live in several different places growing up. Lowry spent some of her school years in Japan, but she ended up graduating from a New York City high school. She then spent two years at Brown University before dropping out to get married.

Career Beginnings

At the age of 19, she married naval officer Donald Lowry. The couple moved around a lot because of Donald's military career. Along the way, they had four children: daughters Alix and Kristin and sons Grey and Ben. Lowry was living in Maine with her family when she decided to finish college and eventually earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Southern Maine in the early 1970s.

In 1977, Lowry published her first novel, A Summer to Die, which was based on her own experience of losing her older sister Helen at a young age. She was also going through some personal changes around this time, as she and her husband got divorced. Two years later, Lowry launched her popular humorous series of novels featuring Anastasia Krupnik. She later developed another series featuring Anastasia's younger brother Sam.

In 1979, Lowry also published Autumn Street, a novel that drew further inspiration from her own life. Lowry's main character Elizabeth and her family go to live with her grandfather during World War II while her father is off serving in the military. Lowry's pregnant mother took her and her older sister to live with her grandparents during the war as well while her father was stationed overseas. She and her family later rejoined Lowry's father and lived in Japan for a time after the war. 

Award-Winning Novels

Lowry's career reached new heights with the 1989 historical novel Number the Stars. The book explores the Nazi takeover of Denmark during World War II. The narrator, Annemarie Johansen, is friends with a Jewish girl named Ellen. She and her family help hide Ellen from the Nazis when they begin to round up Jewish citizens. Annemarie also ends up helping Ellen and her family escape from Denmark. Lowry received the prestigious Newbery Award for this work.

Four years later, Lowry published one of her best known novels, The Giver. The story takes the reader to a future community where there's no war and poverty but everyone's lives are tightly controlled. A young teen named Jonas becomes an apprentice to the title character, the only person with access to memories of the past.

The Giver was seen as controversial by some for its violent themes, sexual content and depiction of infanticide and euthanasia. Others, however, heaped praise on this remarkable work, and Lowry won the 1994 Newbery for the novel. Over the years, Lowry added to this examination of a dystopian future with Gathering Blue (2000), The Messenger (2004) and Son (2012). 

Personal Loss

Lowry experienced a tremendous loss in 1995. Her son Grey, a U.S. Air Force pilot, died in a plane crash. Grey's daughter Nadine was only a toddler at the time of his death. Despite her grief, Lowry sought to make a book for her granddaughter about her life with her father. She explained to Publishers Weekly that the act of digging through family photos for the project inspired her to reflect on her own life. The result was the 1998 memoir Looking Back.

Movie Adaptation of 'The Giver' & More

In 2002, Lowry launched another successful children's book series with Gooney Bird Greene. The book's title character is a quirky and adventurous elementary school student. More recent titles in the series include 2011's Gooney Bird on the Map and 2013's Gooney Bird and All Her Charms and 2014's Gooney Bird and All Her Charms. Lowry also worked on promoting the movie adaptation of her novel The Giver. The 2014 film stars Brenton Thwaites as Jonas with Jeff Bridges as the title character and Meryl Streep as the Chief Elder.

In addition to writing, Lowry is a skilled photographer. Some of her work has been used to illustrate the covers of her books, including The Giver and Number the Stars. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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