Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Book of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

If I have an all-time favorite sub-genre of literature it is young adult science fiction. I eat the stuff up. I loved Philip Pullman's Dark Material's Trilogy long before The Golden Compass got made into a decent (but not great) movie . I'm a sucker for books like Lois Lowry's The Giver. One of the books on my to-read list is The Lightning Thief. So when my husband picked up The Book of Ember, I had no doubt it would make it to my reading list sooner rather than later.

I started The Book of Ember on Friday night and finished it Saturday afternoon. It is, after all, a children's/young adult book. But it is also a good engaging story that captures the imagination and encourages devouring the book. One of the appeals of young adult sci fi is that it has to be relatively fast-paced to appeal to a young reader. Plus, the stories tend to be shorter which leaves less room for the much more detailed description that science fiction authors often use to flesh out their storylines.

But shorter does not mean less well-developed. DuPrau has created an interesting and novel world for the first book in her trilogy. The great mystery of the world is not that difficult to figure out. The city of Ember lives in darkness aside from the electric lights that are run by a generator. But the lights are failing, supplies are in short supply, and the mayor is corrupt. Lina and Doon are some of the only citizens who seem to want to fix the problem and find a solution.

The characters in DuPrau's novel remind me of Lois Lowry's characters in The Giver - they question their world and no that something is amiss. They have a greater curiosity than normal which allows them a greater understanding of the world.

I will happily read the rest of the series. My husband asked if it was a good book to read to our 5 1/2 year old son. For some kids I think it would be: it's not too scary, there's nothing inappropriate. My son doesn't love chapter books yet, so I think we'll hold off for a while.


Kelly Jane Dahl said...

I again recommend the Children's Lit. book group at the library. I think you would enjoy it. They include some science fiction. Also, I think it will be really interesting since the library director, who participates in the group, is heading up the Newbury committee this year.

I started reading the Lightening Thief. I couldn't get into it. I have trouble with children's lit that is written too conversationally, making kids look less thoughtful. That was my impression. But, I read it when I was pregnant and less patient so I might try it again. The girl I tutored loved it.

The Giver is on my list of all time favorite books. Love that book and loved teaching it too.

A Gwen Nelson said...

I started The Lightning Thief when I was sitting at B&N watching the boys play trains. I think it will probably make my short list. It's such a hard balance between writing good literature for kids and yet still making it age appropriate. Not a job I would want to undertake.

I have thought about that book group but don't know if I need to add anything else to my to-do list these days.

Dani said...

Oh, good. I have this on the shelf. I just haven't gotten around to it. The Lightening Theif books are very popular. The author is a Texan, and he makes regular appearances at the bookstore, Book People, in
Austin from what I understand.