Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Module 8: The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

Ember, unbeknownst to its residents, is a city underneath the surface of the earth. The city is powered by a failing hydroelectric generator charged by a river that runs underneath the city. Citizens begin to panic as blackouts become more and more frequent. With no natural or portable lights, citizens are trapped in a doomed city. Lina finds partially damaged instructions to escape the city. Her new found knowledge threatens the establishment and threatens her life. Lina and her friend Doon decipher the instructions and escape to the surface of the Earth.

The City of Ember is a very well written and rewarding read. The book starts a bit slow in the way of plot. DuPrau takes her time letting us get to know the characters and daily life in Ember. As blackouts become more frequent the plot speeds up and we find Lina and Doon in the thick of things. This book is an excellent example of young people using knowledge and determination to solve a problem. In addition, it’s a great example of team work. Neither Lina nor Doon could escape the city without the knowledge and talent held by the other. I think The City of Ember is also a great lesson in conservation. The citizens of Ember are running out of everything, the must conserve and reuse. A perceptive reader might stop to think, “Why not conserve before stores are low?” This book also educates the reader on political corruption. The city’s mayor hoards goods from citizens for his own benefit. He will stop at nothing to keep his wealth and control, even if it means the demise of the city. Lina and Doon fight this corruption and work to save the city.

Review: Kirkus Reviews
This promising debut is set in a dying underground city. Ember, which was founded and stocked with supplies centuries ago by "The Builders," is now desperately short of food, clothes, and electricity to keep the town illuminated. Lina and Doon find long-hidden, undecipherable instructions that send them on a perilous mission to find what they believe must exist: an exit door from their disintegrating town. In the process, they uncover secret governmental corruption and a route to the world above. Well-paced, this contains a satisfying mystery, a breathtaking escape over rooftops in darkness, a harrowing journey into the unknown and cryptic messages for readers to decipher. The setting is well-realized with the constraints of life in the city intriguingly detailed. The likable protagonists are not only courageous but also believably flawed by human pride, their weaknesses often complementing each other in interesting ways. The cliffhanger ending will leave readers clamoring for the next installment.

Suggested Activities
DuPrau does an excellent job establishing setting. I would have readers choose a scene from the book to illustrate it according to DuPrau’s descriptions in the text.

DuPrau, J. (2003) The City of Ember. New York: Random House. ISBN: 0375822739.

[Review for the book The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau]. Kirkus Reviews, 71(10), 749-749.

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