Thursday, April 8, 2004

The City of Ember

In Jeanne De Prau’s riveting debut, the city of Ember and its inhabitants stand at a crossroads as the 241-year-old city’s antiquated electrical grid threatens to plummet them into obscurity forever. Flickering lights and serious food shortages are constant reminders of their impending doom. It was not what the “Builders” envisioned for their children hundreds of years before, but the map they had placed in a locked box outlining an escape route has vanished. As in THE GIVER by Lois Lowry, the twelve year olds receive assignments. Lina and Doon, the futuristic protagonists, realize that serving in their “assigned” positions will enable them to pool their wits and energies and save their beloved city. Working through human flaws of pride and contrariness and deciding to work together as a team, they find fragments of the map and are able to piece together enough information to find a way out. Fighting greedy, corrupt governmental officials, Lina and Doon locate a cave surrounded by a river filled with boats, and after a scary and frightening journey emerge into another world and witness their first sunrise. De Prau has eloquently left a possibility for a sequel. The triumphant conclusion will leave readers clamoring for more.

Powerfully written and thought provoking, this survival story with its realistic writing style will find a memorable place in the hearts and minds of fantasy lovers. De Prau’s unforgettable and stunning visual imagery and her vivid characterizations make this novel more than just another subterranean adventure. The barrage of imagination that springs out of this novel will invite readers to muse on the “what ifs” long afterwards. De Prau’s ability to convey a message that individuals need to be vitally aware of their freedoms and their interdependence on each other is poignantly accomplished.

Readers could discuss the effects of a national blackout. They can research the strengths and weaknesses of our national electrical grid and of other countries around the world. A science unit dealing with the issues of a failed electrical grid would be effective in posing questions and opening discussions about possible solutions. Also, eliminating the vulnerability of such a catastrophe would be a beneficial thread to discuss.

Books that deal with other worlds and our interdependence on each other:
Chabon, Michael. SUMMERLANDS. ISBN 0786808772
Funke, Cornelia. THE THIEF LORD. ISBN 0439404371
Lowry, Lois. THE GIVER. ISBN 0395645662
Nix, Garth. SABRIEL. ISBN 0064471837

By Rita Pickett

No comments: