Sequelitis

giver Sequelitis

I was out for a run the morning of the 4th when a squadron of Blue Angels came zooming across the sky in formation. The contrast between the Olmsted-ordered beauty of my surroundings (see above, near Ward’s Pond in Jamaica Plain) and the high-tech menace above made me feel like I was in The Giver. So then my thoughts wandered to Lois Lowry’s latest novel, Son, fourth and presumably last in what the publisher is now calling the Giver Quartet.

I like the book (it will be reviewed in the September issue of the Horn Book Magazine) but I do wonder about the wisdom (aesthetic if not commercial) of going to the same well too often. Any time I speak to an audience that includes library students, I plead with one of them to make a master’s thesis (do library school students still write master’s theses? Masters’ theses?) of the intersection of Newbery attention and sequel publication. There are tons of variables, including the fact that no fewer than five Newbery Medals have gone to books that were sequels to books that had previously won Newbery Honors. At least fifteen Newbery winners have spawned sequels, sometimes where you would expect (as with Susan Cooper’s ongoing Dark Is Rising series, or Cynthia’s Voigt’s further adventures of the Tillerman kids) but often where you would not, as with Julie of the Wolves or The Giver or Shiloh. None of these stories needed to keep going, and one thing I like about all those books is the way they end. Here’s hoping Dead End in Norvelt is true to its title.

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Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

Comments

  1. Mary Anjali says:

    I remembering reading “The Giver” in 6th grade and I still reference it to this day, almost 20 years later. I have not read, “The Messenger” and was never that interested in actually knowing what happened to Jonas. I enjoy creating my own endings, changing my beliefs and ideas and leaving things ambigous; it helps fuel my imagination. I agree that sequels aren’t always needed, sometimes less really is more.

  2. I could be imagining things, but I think Jack said that there will be one more book set in the Norveltverse.

  3. In terms of “why did this book need a sequel,” I always come back to Island of the Blue Dolphins. Really, Scott O’Dell? A sequel to a book that spends two-thirds of its length with only one human character?

  4. Roger Sutton says:

    I do love when a book tells us NO MORE. Hilary McKay does it brilliantly in the last of her Exiles series.

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