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Move Into the Future

Share A look into current technology to see how life in the 21st century might look. A world in which the future can hinge on the role played by society's artists. A boy living at the time of the plague wonders about the upcoming second millennium. This week's books examine the idea of "the future."

This week, Education World examines the future. The following three books examine the concept of the future and help make it seem concrete. These books are sure to elicit comments, questions, and suggestions from your students.


"During the 21st century, we will witness great changes in our everyday lives. Breakthroughs in fields as diverse as medicine, communication, architecture, and transportation will have a major impact on society. Most people will live in cities, which will continue to grow outward as well as upward. Inside your intelligent home, sensors will detect your presence and automatically adjust the environment. If you own a car, it will probably be a non-polluting, electric model. For longer journeys, new forms of propulsion will cut the journey times for train, sea, and air travel."
      -- from How the Future Began: Everyday Life, by Clive Gifford

Book Cover Image Today, many Americans have difficulty imagining life without air travel, television, or modern medical advances. In How the Future Began: Everyday Life (Larousse Kingfisher Chambers Inc.), author Clive Gifford traces the origins of many of our present marvels and explains how they have transformed everyday life.

Each of the four main sections, "Homes and Cities," "Transportation," Work and Play," and Healthy Living," How the Future Began: Everyday Life starts with brief historical background, then examines the implication for the 21st century. Most of Gifford's visions are realistic; for example, in "Healthy Living," Gifford describes the use of bionic parts to replace missing limbs and techniques to combat aging. Each section contains numerous full-color illustrations and photographs that help the reader visualize the advancements discussed in the text. Back matter includes a glossary, a listing of pertinent Web sites, and places to visit for additional information.

Engaging and highly readable, How the Future Began: Everyday Life will enhance classroom discussion of the feasibility of some of the technological innovations discussed in the book.


Book Cover Image Tomorrowland: 10 Stories About the Future (Scholastic Press), compiled by Michael Cart, is a collection of stories written for this anthology by ten different authors of young adult fiction, including Jon Scieszka, Rodman Philbrick, Gloria Skurzynski, Lois Lowry, and Katherine Paterson. The stories feature characters from the past looking forward, present-day characters facing the start of a new century, and futuristic characters dealing with the same issues as those who lived before them. Each story in some way addresses the concept of the future.

The stories vary widely in their topics, tones, and settings. James Cross Giblin's "Night of the Plague," is set in a European monastery during the year 1000, right before the start of the second millennium. Anthony, age 16, is facing a crisis of faith due to the high mortality rate caused by the plague. In "His Brother's Keeper," by Gloria Skurzynski, four people -- two parents and their two sons -- make up the first crew to settle on Mars, where rivalry between the sons erupts in the face of their extreme isolation. Jon Scieszka's comic take on the disappearance of the Neanderthals, "Homo ... Sapiens?" takes place on December 31, 330001 B.C.

In Lois Lowry's disturbing but thought-provoking "Rage," the narrator, BJ, relates the life of his great-grandfather:

"Pop was born in 1900 and had always said that he would live to see the year 2000. He planned to die quietly after the world had moved into a new century. ...

"He made it. He made it to the millennium. He would have turned one hundred a couple of months later, but he left with the century instead. He did not go gentle. He went out with his deer rifle blazing, two dogs dead, and three people wounded. He would have been hauled off to jail and become the oldest prisoner on record if he hadn't had a heart attack with his finger still on the trigger of the gun."

As the story develops, Pop's life is marked by losses and betrayals, culminating in a final revelation that awakens his anger, resulting in a tragic end to his long life. This story raises questions about the changes that have occurred in society over the past century and the direction that life will take in the next that will provide fodder for classroom discussion.


Book Cover Image In Gathering Blue (Walter Lorraine Books), acclaimed author Lois Lowry presents us with a future world in which only the most rudimentary technologies still exist. Life is harsh and brutish, especially for those who are sick or disabled. Survival is the main thing on everyone's mind, except at the time of the annual Gathering at which the community's mysterious Singer performs the Ruin Song -- a recitation of the history of humankind's innumerable rises and falls throughout the centuries.

The story centers on Kira, a newly orphaned girl. Lame from birth, Kira should have been left to die as an infant but was spared because of her mother's usefulness to the community. After her mother's death, Kira has to prove her own usefulness in order to be allowed to live. Her skill at embroidery turns out to be her salvation: The ceremonial robe worn by the Singer during the recitation of the Ruin Song is falling into disrepair, and Kira has the responsibility of salvaging it. The robe's tiny embroidered pictures illustrate the events described in the Ruin Song, with the exception of a large, unadorned section that represents the future; and Kira is responsible for filling in that section as well.

In her new, seemingly important role in the community, Kira goes to live in the ancient but still grand Council Edifice (which appears to be the remains of a church). Her life seems transformed: She has more food than ever before, running water, and a soft bed. She has two new friends: Thomas, a boy whose job it is to repair the historical carvings on the Singer's staff, and Jo, who is training to become the next Singer. However, as the day of the Gathering draws near, Kira and Thomas make the startling discovery that they and Jo have the ability not only to tell the stories of the past through their respective crafts but also to shape society's future. However, The Council of Guardians will be the ones to determine the future that Kira is to embroider on the Singer's robe, that Thomas will carve in wood, and that Jo will sing. This servitude that the young artists face is brought home forcibly when Kira discovers that, hidden by the breathtaking robe that she has restored, the Singer's legs are shackled.

"The guardians with their stern faces had no creative power. But they had strength and cunning, and they had found a way to steal and harness other people's powers for their own needs. They were forcing the children to describe the future they wanted, not the one that could be."
     --from Gathering Blue, by Lois Lowry

Teachers will find Gathering Blue full of material for discussion, including the way in which events of the past shape the future, the role of the artist in society, and ways in which the conflict between predestination and self-determination affect future events.

The books highlighted this week are available in most bookstores. If you are unable to locate the book, ask your bookseller to order it for you or contact the publisher directly:

  • Tomorrowland: 10 Stories About the Future, compiled by Michael Cart, is published by Scholastic, Inc. For additional information call 1-800-SCHOLASTIC.

  • How the Future Began: Everyday Life, written by Clive Gifford, is published by Larousse Kingfisher Chambers Inc., 95 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016.

  • Gathering Blue, written by Lois Lowry, is published by Walter Lorraine Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003.

Lauren P. Gattilia
Education World®
Copyright © 2000 Education World

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