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Gathering Blue    by Lois Lowry order for
Gathering Blue
by Lois Lowry
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio

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* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Kira lovingly remembers her mother Katrina telling the story of her birth, and how she fought to keep her baby despite her crooked leg. Katrina raised Kira to be strong no matter the circumstances. Her father died before she was born, killed by beasts while hunting, and the young girl sat four days in the Field of Leaving, to watch her mother's spirit escape as a mist from her body.

On her return to the village, Matt of the Fen people approaches to warn Kira that a group of women led by the vindictive Vandara plan to claim her mother's property. Vandara and Kira appear before the Council of Guardians. Jamison, a Council member, is chosen to defend Kira, but her property is given to Vandara. However, Kira is assigned a task of great importance. Her mother had mended the ancient Robe worn by the Singer of Song - the garment was woven with colors and patterns depicting historical scenes. The lengthy Ruin Song was performed each year at the Gathering, to teach villagers about the past. Katrina taught the dyeing methods to her talented daughter, who is now assigned to repair the Robe, and to complete the history on it.

Kira is taken to live in the ancient Council Edifice, where elderly Annabella will teach her just as she did her mother. Kira tells Annabella, 'Something happens when I work with the threads. They seem to know things on their own, and my fingers simply follow.' For the tricky color blue on the robe, Annabella tells Kira: 'Gather fresh leaves from first year's growth of woad. And soft rainwater; that makes the blue ... they be far away.' Annabella assures Kira that 'there are no beasts', yet Jamison adamantly warns, 'Never stray past the village limits. Do not go beyond the path.' Nights are difficult for Kira as she thinks of her mother, 'Only the moon was familiar ... some moonlit nights in their windowless cott she and her mother slipped outside and stood together in the breeze ... watching the clouds slide past the bright globe in the night sky.'

Thomas the Carver, who has lived in the Edifice since he was a tyke, carves wonders out of wood. He is assigned the task to re-carve the Singer's staff. Kira learns that Thomas, too, has a magic sense in a piece of wood, as though it spoke to him. The Fen people are shunned by the villagers for their 'crude manners and strange speech'. But impish Matt is Kira's friend and is allowed to assist her. Matt and his dog disappear one day after he tells Kira that he saw Annabella 'tooken by the draggers'. Strange things begin to happen and Thomas hears a tyke crying from the space beneath his quarters.

Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue is a companion to her Newbery Award winner The Giver, but stands well on its own. Her gently flowing words recount struggles in an 'inhospitable world' with drama, suspense, and humor. Fortunately there is more to come as there are questions still to be answered, in the author's next installment, Messenger.

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