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Book Review: The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

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The City of Ember is a rule-bound place, where all the lights go out at 9 each night, everyone rises early for breakfast, and careful recycling is a way of life. Lately, though, the lights have begun flickering. Supplies are shorter each year, and some foods are no longer available.

Until their 12th year, the children of the City of Ember go to school. But at the end of that year, they are assigned the jobs they will do for years after, perhaps to the end of their lives. Lina yearns to be a Messenger, running free in the streets, learning the secrets of the city. Doon wants desperately to be an electrician's assistant or a pipeworker, because he dreams of fixing the ancient, failing generators of the city.

When each receives the assignment the other wants, they switch jobs, and begin a conspiracy that will not end until they learn how to save the entire city. Along the way, they solve an ancient puzzle, defeat the greed and subterfuge of the Mayor and his minions, and discover a much wider world than either had ever dreamed existed.

When I read children's literature, I look for more than a tale well told. Juvenile science fiction is not hard to come by, especially today in the age of Harry Potter. But fiction that lauds heroism (particularly the kind of courage which every child will have an opportunity to demonstrate), extolls the value of friendship, and shows when adult precepts and rules are worthwhile, and how to tell when they are not — that is uncommon. (Those qualities form the foundation of the Harry Potter stories, too, and explain the widespread appeal of the boy wizard and his friends.)

The City of Ember has that same appeal. Doon and Lina are courageous; they do things children would do, yet also show judgement, persistence and intelligence. These are kids who love their parents, and still see that they must take extraordinary steps outside the regimented life they have led. In the end, they do save their city, and if they do not battle great evil, they do encounter and overcome the kind of petty nastiness that is far more common in the world.

This book works best in tandem with its sequel, The People of Sparks. Together, they are an interesting story — even for an adult. I recommend it highly for boys and girls who want something better than comic-book heroes and video-game battles.

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  • http://www.eclecticlibrarian.net/ Anna Creech

    Have you read The Giver by Lois Lowry? It and the subsequent books do much the same thing in a similarly dystopian world.

  • http://philobiblon.co.uk Natalie Bennett

    This article has been selected for syndication to Advance.net, which is affiliated with newspapers around the United States. Nice work!

  • Shay

    Good Book!!!

  • Ashley

    This is one of my favorite books along with The Giver by Louis Lowery.These kind of books facinate me.

  • Claire

    The city of Ember is an excellent book, it’s science-fiction for those who do not like science-fiction.
    Yes I read The Giver, very good book I recommend it to all book lovers. =D

  • Harsh

    This Book was da best book dat i ever read in ma life it was da G
    1

  • Roger

    This book called the City of Ember is AWESOMEEEE!!!! GOD BLESS THIS BOOK.

  • chloe

    i think the city of ember is the best book i have read in about 20 years. i hope people will read it and enjoy it!

  • he who will not be named (voldemort!)

    this is a very good book, actually fascinating, this is one of the best book that i have read in 15 years, i am 50, sike

  • omg

  • Kaveel

    Cant wait to start reading People of Sparks

  • fred

    G R E A T B O O K !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! R E A D I T!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

  • MARIA

    OMG I LOVE THIS BOOK I USUALLY DON’T LIKE READING BOOKS BUT I LOVED THIS BOOK ONE DAY I HAD TO GO TO GET A BOOK TO READ FOR MY ENG CLASS SO I RANDOMLY GOT IT AND I THOUGHT IT WAS GOING TO BE A BORING BOOK BUT I LOVED IT IT MADE ME FEEL AND IT WAS LIKE I WAS EXPERINCING THE SAME AS LINA AND DOOM WERE IT WAS A GRAET BOOK I RECCOMMED IT TO PEOPLE OF ALL AGES READ THE BOOK THE CITY OF EMBER IT MAKES YOU THINK MAYBE WE WILL LIVE LIKE THAT SOMEDAY BECAUSE OF ALL THE PROBLEM ACCURING TODAY SO DON’T WAIT AND READ IT !!!!!!!!!!!!

  • KAREN DIAZ

    LOVED IT

  • booga-booga

    some of these reviews are crrrraaaaazzzzyyyyy

  • logan c

    this book is sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo goooooooooooooooooooddddddddddddddddddddddddd

  • manisha

    I love this book!!!It’s so awesome!!i FININSHED THIS BOOK IN 2 DAYS CAUSE i LOVE IT SO MUCH!!!

  • tawne

    i like the book its just long and love the movie!

  • bcjfsghkldrjgnskldrjhlsudrh

    i kinda liked the book, but they are running out of supplies. you might want to put that down when you right about it so people know.

  • i dont kno my name. i forgot it.

    this was a really good book and i enjoyed it alot :)

  • Somebody

    I only read first half of the book, but I really like this book because author wrote this book very excitingly and made it interesting. One reason that makes me keep read this book is because I want to find out what’s on the paper full of holes.

  • abc

    Love the movie the omfg the book sucks