childlike, fantasy and fun, this is a classic story of a brave princess and a surprising hero. while the movie ruined most of the suspense in here, th...morechildlike, fantasy and fun, this is a classic story of a brave princess and a surprising hero. while the movie ruined most of the suspense in here, the story kept me reading and feeling like a kid again!(less)
The City of Ember follows the adventures of two eleven year olds, Lina and Doon, who attempt to find a way out of their dark, slowly starving world. W...moreThe City of Ember follows the adventures of two eleven year olds, Lina and Doon, who attempt to find a way out of their dark, slowly starving world. With the help of a few mangled instructions, Lina and Doon discover a hidden secret lost in the city of Ember, all the while fighting to stay out of sight of the corrupted major...
The City of Ember has been hailed as one of the many successors or one of the better middle school novels on par with Harry Potter and His Dark Materials. And while Ember certainly has its good points, it is not, in my opinion, a novel that matures as well as HP and HDM does for older readers. Ember, in all reality, is very much a children's and solely a children's novel, in contrast to the older, adult themes found in both HP and HDM.
One of things I enjoyed while reading The City of Ember was the setting, Ember, itself. The city is set in a place where eternal darkness reigns, and its inhabitants are forced to depend on electricity, and the supposedly never ending supplies the Builders and original people of the city have manufactured for them. Except, at this point, both the electric generator running the city, and the supplies are dwindling into ruin as the city begins to starve slowly, and fear the ever creeping darkness held at bay by the lights. That was my favorite part of this novel, and maybe only the part I really enjoyed. It's an interesting notion after all, and it works well into that apocalyptic/dystopian genre.
What annoyed me about the setting, however, was the fact that DuPrau never makes it as intense or desperate as it could be. Maybe it's because I've read the Hunger Games, and absolutely reveled in Collins' honest and heart-wrenching poverty, but I felt there wasn't enough of that slowly dying/starving mentality or desperation at all in the way Ember, the city itself, was like nor how the characters, Lina and Doon, acted. Even though both are, from what I assume anyway, part of the lower class, and cannot afford a lot of stuff. There wasn't a scramble or worry from either of them, and while I know they are both eleven, they both do take on a lot of responsibility. ie they both are expected to have jobs and essentially careers by eleven. I think that added desperation was something DuPrau missed out on writing/incorporating in her novel, because, perhaps she didn't (or the market didn't allow her to) want to lose track of that middle-school reading mentality and expectations, but should've been there not only because it would've been an interesting story element, but also because it would've provided so much more depth to the world and its characters. That possibility of starvation, that push for survival are both such great plot devices to bring forth conflict your readers will die to know the outcome of, and to show how your characters stand up in the face of such adversity.
Anyway, so the characters, as you've might've guessed, aren't much to speak of. Both Lina and Doon, the main protagonists who share alternating chapters, are very bland and are motivated by their sense of adventure, and in Doon's case: his anger. They don't face much conflict throughout the book, and they don't undergo any development as characters as far as I could see. The other characters are outlined by where they stand as either good or bad guys, making them even more bland and without any real personalities.
The plot is pretty predictable, and moves quickly. Conflicts don't really come to a head, and sub-plots don't make much of an appearance. Most of the book focuses on finding a way out of Ember, and thus doesn't go into the usual required character development, or even dystopian this-is-what-is-wrong-with-our-society overall theme. Unless you count corruption.
The writing is both simple and bland. It is written for 10 year olds after all. Noting poetic or pretty pose-like about this one, kiddos.
All in all, The City of Ember is a good book for young age children, with easy reading, and an exciting, happy plot. Older readers, adults included, might want to look elsewhere for a more mature children's novel, although Ember does provide a good introduction to dystopian scifi elements.
I'm pretty prone to fairy-tales. I loved them when I was younger and I love them still. Their quirks, their characters, and their ability to bring eve...moreI'm pretty prone to fairy-tales. I loved them when I was younger and I love them still. Their quirks, their characters, and their ability to bring everything together in a way that makes the tale complete and whole with all the strings and questions attached and answered. The Tale of Despereaux was like that for me. Perfectly whole, wonderfully complete, and an absolute joy to read.
(And to be honest, I probably would've read the majority of it out loud-it's just one of those books-had I not been outside reading it.)
The Tale of Despereaux is a fairly cute tale that doesn't require much to follow, and even helps you along the way. It's a book that's definitely intended for children; much of its narrative, after all, focuses on engaging the reader with the text, plot, and characters, by reminding the reader of certain events/traits, getting them to look up a certain word in the dictionary (or fail to fully understand what's going on-it worked on me!), or just plain talking to them. It's a book that's about narrative just as much as it is about the actual story. The balance between the two is not only cleverly crafted, but really makes the story that much funnier and more fun to read. In many ways, the narration on narration not only brings you somewhat into the story, but also highlights the interaction, often one-sided, between reader and text.
Which is really cool for my academic mind. The five year old in me was pacified by the story, but the deeper meanings definitely appealed to the adult I sort of am.
Academic meanings aside, the book also plays on the ideas of good and bad, dark and light, as well as forgiveness and, even, a little redemption. DiCamillo is beautiful at character development, and it shows through her light touches throughout the piece. We are never overburdened with a sea of morality, or even overbearing themes of good and evil, but still come to the same themes and conclusions by virtue of the novel's ability to cleverly bring those issues to the forefront without having them hanging over our head.
Nor are we ever bored by the complex and intertwining tale DiCamillo writes that pieces the various threads of The Tale of Despereaux into a whole. Children and adults will no doubt be charmed, and you can bet both will beg to hear the tale at bedtime over and over and over again. 4-4.5/5(less)