The power of dreams
Littlest One isn't quite sure what she is. She's practically transparent, but she casts a shadow. She's not like a dog (she doesn't have a tail, after all), and yet she doesn't seem quite human. All she knows is that she is learning, slowly, to do a most important job.
Littlest is a dream-giver, one of countless of her kind assigned to grant dreams to humans. Along with her teacher, Thin Elderly, Littlest visits the home of an old woman each night. The two travel through the small home, touching objects and gathering their stories: "memories, colors, words once spoken, hints of scents and the tiniest fragments of forgotten sound." A photograph of an old lover, an afghan used for cuddling a small child, a stuffed donkey, a beloved piece of musicthe dream-givers gather these fragments and piece them into a dream, which they bestow on their humans (or sometimes, on their pets).
Dream-givers don't take their work lightly, but they must not become too involved with their humans or their memories. If they delve too deeply, they risk becoming Sinisteeds, menacing creatures that inflict nightmares.
When Littlest's old woman takes in John, an angry young foster child with far too many sad and troubling memories, the Sinisteeds target the boy with some of their most powerful and damaging nightmares. Can Littlest use her creativity, her empathy and her gossamer touch to help save the boy from his haunting past?
Although Newbery Award-winning author Lowry's language is simple and the story straightforward, Gossamer is more complex and thought-provoking than it may appear at first glance. Here Lowry has effectively combined the realms of fantasy and realism. In spare, sometimes lyrical prose, she creates a race of otherworldly beings and an explanation for our dreams, both the comforting ones and the troubling ones. The novel also deals frankly and realistically with issues of foster care, child abuse and abandonment. Through their interactions, humans, dream-givers and readers alike have the opportunity to be transformed.
Norah Piehl writes from Wellesley, Massachusetts.