Monday, July 14, 2014

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The City of Ember

I’ve been busy writing my own novel, so I haven’t been visiting the library as often as I usually do. But every once and a while, I like to pull a favourite book from my own bookshelf. The City of Ember is definitely one of my favourites!

Today’s Pick: The City of Ember

by Jeanne DuPrau

Random House, 2003

From the Author’s Website:

Lights shine in the city of Ember—but at the city limits the light ends, and darkness takes over. Out there in the Unknown Regions, the darkness goes on forever in all directions. Ember—so its people believe—is the only light in the dark world.

And now the lights are going out.

Is there a way to save the people of Ember? No one knows. But Lina Mayfleet has found a puzzling document, and Doon Harrow has made discoveries down in the Pipeworks. With these clues, they start their search.

My Take:

I enjoyed this book when I first read it a few years ago and I still enjoy reading it now, even though many great dystopian books have come along after it. One of the reasons why I like this book is because I connected with the idea that resources have their limits and the “what ifs” that follow. It’s so interesting to think about the different perspective people might have if they grew up in an underground world.  I also liked the characters – Lina, who likes to see new places and draw, and Doon, who is interested in insects and figuring things out.

To me, this is a great example of book that is very definitely middle grade, with middle grade dialogue and concerns. As a writer, I especially enjoyed thinking about the details the author used to bring out the setting and this very different world.

Opening Line:

“When the city of Ember was just built and not yet inhabited, the chief builder and the assistant builder, both of them weary, sat down to speak of the future.”


“Running made her feel strong and big-hearted, it made her love the places she ran through and the people whose messages she delivered.”

“The trouble with anger is, it gets hold of you. And then you aren’t the master of yourself anymore. Anger is.”

“There were plants, they discovered, taller than they were, with stems as hard and thick as the walls of houses, and leaves that spread out over their heads.”

Other Info:

Jeanne DuPrau is a writer living in California. She has a dog named Jockey and enjoys gardening and reading.

The City of Ember is American Library Association Notable Book.

On her website, Jeanne DuPrau says this about the idea for the story: “…once I'd written The City of Ember, I hoped it would make people think about our world—about the sun and the moon, the forests and the ocean, the wind and the rain—and how precious it all is.”

There is a movie of this book, which to me had a very different tone and feel from the book, as well as different events, so I found it disappointing. But it would be interesting to read the book and then watch the movie to compare them and think about the differences and the effective elements in each.

Other Middle Grade Books:

The People of Sparks
The Prophet of Yonwood
The Diamond of Darkhold

For more, visit Jeanne DuPrau’s website.

Looking for more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday books? Visit Shannon Messenger’s blog for a list of bloggers reviewing great books today! Shannon is the founder of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday and the author of the middle grade novels, Keeper of the Lost Cities and Exile (Keeper of the Lost Cities #2).


  1. Haven't read this yet. I need to. Just taped the movie and looking forward to reading it.

  2. I usually give away most of the books I read but I also have my favorites that remain on the shelf. They're like precious jewels in a display case that have to be looked at over and over. City of Ember sounds like one I should read. Next time I cross paths with it at the library, I'll take a look. Thanks for the review.

  3. Summer is a great time for revisiting favorites! I loved this book, too. It really stands out in my mind as one of the best of the dystopians. I loved that it was squarely middle grade too.

  4. I really enjoyed reading The City of Ember and connected to the characters. I remember reading the book in one sitting because I was so intrigued. Glad to hear you are also a fan.

    Happy writing!


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