Lois Lowry to Librarians: "There Is No One Whom I Admire More"

Discussing her latest novel Tree. Table. Book. with SLJ, Lois Lowry explains how, from her first book to The Giver to now, she has always been intrigued with the concept of the gifts that age and youth can give to one another. 

Discussing her latest novel Tree. Table. Book. (April 23, HarperCollins/Clarion) with SLJ, Lois Lowry explains how, from her first book to The Giver to now, she has always been intrigued with the concept of the gifts that age and youth can give to one another. 

Florence Simmons: What was your inspiration for Tree. Table. Book.?

Lois Lowry: At first, thinking about this, I began to answer that it is in my old age that I’m beginning to explore the relationships that are possible between children and old people. Then I realized that my very first book, A Summer to Die, published back in 1977, dealt with the special bond between a 13-year-old girl and her elderly neighbor. And then—goodness, The Giver; it’s the same theme, essentially. So it seems that this concept—the gifts that age and youth can give to one another—has always intrigued me.

FS: What do you love the most about your latest book? What do you hope readers take away from it?

LL: I love the personalities of the four main characters: the two Sophies, Ralphie, and Oliver. They are so different from one another! Each one is unique, but the interplay among them was fun for me to create. And I love how they each respect one another and their differences.

I think the two Sophies each say [what I hope readers will take away] aloud at the end of Chapter 30. Young Sophie whispers it: “You need the stories.” And old Sophie replies: “Keep them close. Hold onto them.”

FS: Have young readers changed from the time you published your first book to now? How so? Is writing for children any different now?

LL: The world has changed, of course. Everything is faster, more glib. The ten-year-old who writes to me may do it now by email instead of the handwritten letter I would have received in 1977. And the email may refer to me as "U" instead of “you.” But I don’t think the young readers themselves have changed, not really. Their passion, their earnestness, and their uncertainty are just as palpable and poignant as they were back then.

FS: What keeps you going?

LL: Two things continue to motivate me. One is the community of the children’s book world: the friendships I have made, the professional relationships that nourish me every day. And the other is more solitary: the delight I take in the nuance and cadence of words on a page.

FS: What would you like to say to librarians, especially school librarians, as they navigate the many recent challenges in and to their work?

LL: At this particular moment in time there is no one whom I admire more. It’s one thing for me to sit alone in a room and put ideas on a page. But for those brave souls who step forward publicly and defend my right to do that...well, I can’t adequately describe my gratitude and admiration.

FS: What are you working on now?

LL: I’m actually working on expanding a story that I published several years ago. I was limited at the time by length, so I trimmed it to size; but the concept has stayed with me and I’m thinking—hoping—that it really wanted to be a novel. I typed page 52 yesterday. Miles to go, still, before I sleep.


Author photo credit: Howard Corwin

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