Biography of Lois Lowry

Two-Time John Newbery Medal Winner and Author of The Giver and Number the Stars

Author Lois Lowry with her young adult novel The Giver
Author Lois Lowry with her young adult novel The Giver. Getty Images/Taylor Hill

Author Lois Lowry is best known for The Giver, her dark, thought-provoking, and controversial fantasy, which is a young adult novel, and for Number the Stars, a children's novel about the Holocaust. Lois Lowry received the prestigious Newbery Medal for each of these books. However, what many people don't know is that Lowry has written more than thirty books for children and young teens, including several series.

Dates: March 20, 1937 -

Also Known As: Lois Ann Hammersberg 

Personal Life

Although Lois Lowry grew up with an older sister and a younger brother, she reports, "I was a solitary child who lived in the world of books and my own vivid imagination." She was born in Hawaii on March 20, 1937. Lowry's father was in the military, and the family moved a lot, spending time in various states and in Japan.

After two years at Brown University, Lowry married. Like her father, her husband was in the military and they moved a good deal, finally settling in Cambridge, Massachusetts when he entered law school. They had four children, two boys and two girls (tragically, one of their sons, an Air Force pilot, died in a plane crash in 1995).

The family lived in Maine while the children were growing up. Lowry received her degree from the University of Southern Maine, went to graduate school, and began writing professionally.

After her divorce in 1977, she returned to Cambridge, Massachusetts where she still lives; she also spends time at her home in Maine.

Books and Accomplishment

Lois Lowry's first book, A Summer to Die, which was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1977, was awarded the International Reading Association’s Children’s Book Award.

According to Lois Lowry, after hearing from young readers about the book, "I began to feel, and I think this is true, that that audience that you're writing for, when you write for kids, you are writing for people who can still be affected by what you write in ways that might change them."

Lois Lowry has written more than thirty books for young people, from 2 year-olds to teens, and has received numerous honors. Lowry received the prestigious John Newbery Medal for two of her books: Number the Stars and The Giver. Other honors include the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award.

Some of Lowry's books, like the Anastasia Krupnik and Sam Krupnik series, provide a humorous look at daily life and are geared for readers in grades 4-6 (8 to 12-year-olds). Others, while targeting the same age level, are more serious, such as Number the Stars, a story about the Holocaust. One of her series, which she is planning to expand, the Gooney Bird Greene series, targets even younger children, those in grades 3-5 (7 to 10-year-olds).

Many of Lois Lowry's most serious, and highly-regarded, books are considered young adult books. They are written for children in grades 7 and up (12-years-old and up).

They include A Summer to Die, and The Giver fantasy trilogy, which became a quartet in fall 2012 with the publication of Lowry's Son.

In discussing her books, Lois Lowry explained, "My books have varied in content and style. Yet it seems that all of them deal, essentially, with the same general theme: the importance of human connections. A Summer to Die, my first book, was a highly fictionalized retelling of the early death of my sister, and of the effect of such a loss on a family. Number the Stars, set in a different culture and era, tells the same story: that of the role that we humans play in the lives of our fellow beings." 

Censorship and The Giver

The Giver is 23rd on the American Library Association's list of the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009. To learn more, see In Their Own Words: Authors Talk About Censorship, in which Lowry discusses reactions to The Giver and states,

"Submitting to censorship is to enter the seductive world of The Giver: the world where there are no bad words and no bad deeds. But it is also the world where choice has been taken away and reality distorted. And that is the most dangerous world of all." 

Website and Social Media Presence

Lois Lowry's official website has been redesigned and the new, improved website debuted in September 2011. It is divided into five main sections: New Stuff, Blog, About, Collections and Videos. Lois Lowry also provides her email address and a schedule of appearances. The New Stuff area contains information about new books. Lowry uses her blog to describe her daily life and share interesting stories. Both adults and young fans will enjoy her blog.

The About area of the site contains three sections: Biography, Awards, and F.A.Q. The Biography section consists of a first person account of Lois Lowry's life, written for her readers. It contains lots of links to family photos, many of which are from Lois' childhood. There are also photos of Lois as a bride and photos of her children and grandchildren.

The Awards section provides a good bit of information about the John Newbery Medal (Lowry has two!) and a long list of all of the other awards she has received. In the entertaining F.A.Q. section, she answers specific, and sometimes amusing, questions that readers have asked her. According to Lowry, the most frequently asked question is, "How do you get your ideas?" There are also such serious questions as "A parent from my school wants to ban The Giver. What do you think about that?"

The Collections area includes Books Speeches and Pictures. In the Books section, there is information on all of the books in her Anastasia Krupnik series, Sam Krupnik series, her books about the Tates, The Giver trilogy, and her Gooney Bird books, as well as her other books, including her first Newbery Medal winner, Number the Stars.

The Speeches section of the Collections area, the only area specifically directed to adults, includes more than a half-dozen speeches, each available in PDF format.

My favorite is her 1994 Newbery Medal acceptance speech because of all of the information she gives about how specific life experiences influenced her writing of The Giver. The Pictures section includes photos of Lois Lowry's home, her family, her travels and her friends.

Sources: Lois Lowry's website, Lois Lowry's Reading Rockets interview, American Library Association, Random House