The City of Ember



The City of Ember, the first Book of Ember

Jeanne DuPrau

Yearling, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, 2003

Lina and Doon are childhood friends that live in the city of Ember. Ember is the only place they know and it is all there is. The sky is black and their world is it only by artificial light. The year is 241(? – no one really knows for sure) and they know nothing of the people who created this place, The Builders. There are no farms, just five greenhouses to grow fresh vegetables; no factories to make new things, only the same things used over and over again. They have a storehouse of everything they could ever want (canned goods, light bulbs, clothing) but over time items have begun to run out. The lights flicker and blackouts happen all too often. There is an undercurrent of panic among the populace and twelve-year-old Lina and Doon are determined to find a way to help their city.

With a clue from The Builders, will they find their way out of Ember and reach a new world? And what will that world be like? For a couple of kids who have never seen the sun, grass, or even animals, what will they think when they see it for the first time?

Main characters

  • Lina Mayfleet, a girl who dreams of a city of light, “She had imagined making her way out into the dark and coming to a wall in which she would find the door to a tunnel, and at the end of the tunnel would be the other city, the city of light that she had dreamed about.”
  • Doon Harrow, a boy who not afraid to speak out, “The lights go out all the time now! And the shortages, there shortages of everything! If no one does anything about it, something terrible is going to happen!”

 Secondary characters  

  • Granny, Lina’s grandmother who looks after her and Poppy since her parents died
  • Poppy, Lina’s very little sister who is left to her own devices too much by an ever forgetful Granny
  • Clary, the worker in charge of the greenhouses and to whom Lina confides in
  • Mrs. Murdo, a neighbor who looks after Poppy when Granny can no longer do so herself
  • Mayor Cole, self-serving public servant whose ever increasing girth is in contrast to his citizen’s declining state of affairs

I enjoyed the descriptive way the author describes the rundown and confining city of Ember. It made me a little claustrophobic and wanting to get outside. Also, the way she describes the normal things we take for granted (trees, birds, grass) as Lina and Doon see them for the first time is really good – makes me wish I had those descriptive abilities

Written for elementary school age kids, it was fascinating enough to make Toby, Laura and me want it to be expanded in content and story to a young adult novel. There are three more books in the series and I am looking forward to reading them.


Rating: 4 stars for the curiosity of Lina and Doon and their desire to save their city.

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bobbiesue headshotReviewer: BobbiSue

Courtesy Goodreads

 Jeanne DuPrau spends several hours of every day at her computer, thinking up sentences. She has this quote taped to her wall: “A writer is someone for whom writing is harder than it is for other people” (Thomas Mann).
This gives her courage, because she finds writing very hard. So many words to choose from! So many different things that could happen in a story at any moment! Writing is one tough decision after another.
But it’s also the most satisfying thing she knows how to do. So she keeps doing it. So far, she has written four novels, six books of non-fiction, and quite a few essays and stories.
Jeanne DuPrau doesn’t write every minute of every day. She also putters around in her garden. She lives in California, where it’s easy to grow everything from apples to zinnias.
Jeanne DuPrau doesn’t have children, but she has two nephews, a niece, and a dog. The dog lives with her. His name is Ethan. Jeanne and Ethan get along well, though their interests are different. Ethan is not very fond of reading, for example, and Jeanne doesn’t much like chasing squirrels. But they agree on walks, naps, and trips in the car to surprise destinations. Ethan also likes to help in the garden.

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