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The City of Ember a novel by Jeanne DuPrau

A novel by Jeanne DuPrau about the aftermath of World War

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Steampunk Themes for Young Folks in City of Ember

  • May 21, 2010

What was your emotional reaction as you read? Why?

City of Ember is a well crafted tale. I was compelled by the courage and fears of the people of the City of Ember. I saw many parallels between the visceral darkness descending on Ember and the inevitable social/economic collapse of our own global system. The children heroes of Ember are very real in their quirks, angst, and instinctual dreams of a better world.

Who would you recommend this reading to and why?
I would recommend this book for fans of fantasy, sci-fi, and steampunk.

Consider the setting.
The setting is fantastic: a city, an ember, in a world of darkness, sustained by a generator that is breaking down. The city is cool stone, antique buildings, shabby materials, all slowly deteriorating. The map of the streets is a very nice touch. The greenhouses offer a modicrum of warmth and life in an otherwise firghteningly bereft place.

Consider the story/plot.
The plot winds around several mysteries, each leading into another. The final mystery is: what is Ember? Where is Ember? And what else is out there besides Ember? Is there anything. I love plots that focus more on asking questions than answering them. The plot is also pushed along by inevitable small details: Lina's baby sister chews up a vital secret message resulting in the need for Lina and Doon to work together to discover the way out of Ember.

Consider character development.
The characters are real children, subject to quirks, angst, grudges, disappointments, and instinctual hope and dreams. The supporting characters are representative of our larger society: everyone is afraid of the dark, dark, end. Some call for action, others go about their business and hope for the best, some take advantage of the challenging times. The mayor is a gruesome caricature of greed. The society presents itself as puritanical and communal, valuing hard labor and organization.

Consider themes and motifs.
One theme is the cultural vacuum in which Ember exists. At the end of the book we learn that the founders of Ember intended that all knowledge of the world where the people came from be extinguished with the first, elderly generation of settlers of Ember. So people in Ember use old expressions but don't understand their references. They know nothing of firemaking, or even what fire is. Only electricity exists for them. They have never seen animals, only some insects. They don't know what birds are. What does this imply about the nature of knowledge, time, a single generation's ability to alter the communal wisdom of an entire people? Fascinating.

Consider literary elements used, such as metaphors


What was the message/purpose of the writing?
City of Ember is the first in a series of books. So far the message that speaks to me is one of awareness, of the importance of history, and acknowledging the power people have to rewrite history to reflect a specific, and often selfish purpose. It is all too easy to eradicate knowledge.

Compare and contrast reading with other book types
City of Ember reminds me of Uglies, Pretties, and Specials.

Compare and contrast reading to movie adaptations.


Describe the illustrations (if applicable).
The map at the beginning is a wonderful touch.

Reflect on the author.


Nonfiction: Describe the facts and research.


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Steampunk Themes for Young Folks in City of Ember Steampunk Themes for Young Folks in City of Ember Steampunk Themes for Young Folks in City of Ember Steampunk Themes for Young Folks in City of Ember

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More The City of Ember reviews
Quick Tip by . October 12, 2010
inver read the book, or even heard of it but i did pick up the movie at my local Redbox. it was really cute, an excellent kid friendly film.
Quick Tip by . October 05, 2010
I really enjoyed this and thought it was very well written.
Quick Tip by . June 28, 2010
Amazing concept!
review by . June 26, 2010
This novel is very unique. It tells the story of a whole underground civilization, but they don't know they live underground. It's just where they live. And the lights have been flickering recently....and it's time for them to go back to the surface, but a foolish mayor years before lost the instructions of what to do. So it's left up to some clever young adults to figure things out.   It's an easy read and pretty fast-paced. It's great for young adults because …
Quick Tip by . June 25, 2010
I had dreams about this book after I finished it in one day!
Quick Tip by . June 04, 2010
Enjoyable. I'd like to read the rest of the series sometime.
review by . May 06, 2009
This book is a lot like Logan's Run (the movie) in that it deals with an enclosed city set up by unknown guardians in which the populace has no idea that there is really anything outside their world.       After a holocaust, a group of future planners build Ember, a totally enclosed city, which will be supplied for 200 years. The planners provide instructions for the populace, which will only become available at that time. One problem, the instructions seem to be misplaced over …
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