Book Review: City of Ember

DuPrau, Jeanne. The City of Ember. 2003. 270p. Random House.

Genre: Sci-Fi/ Fantasy


For ages: 9 – adult, would make a good classroom or bedtime read aloud


Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow live in a world with no sun. Artificial lights turn on for “day” and off for “night.”  On Assignment Day – the day when every twelve year old in Ember gets their first job – Lina desperately wants to be messenger but draws a job at Pipeworks instead. She can’t believe Doon Harrow actually wants to trade jobs with her.  Doon wants to be at pipeworks to learn how the generator keeps the lights on. The lights that have been keeping the city out of darkness all his life have been flickering.  That’s when Lina begins to worry too. What will happen if the lights go out forever?


I loved the whole concept of Ember, a world with only artificial lighting. Lina and Doon’s small town is the whole world.  They are able to walk to everyplace and take jobs at a young age. The author makes Ember come alive—without a lot of exposition—by putting us directly into Lina and Doon’s shoes and making us care about their problems. I wanted Lina to get her messenger job and wanted Doon to find out the secrets of the lights from the beginning.



The Sequel: Jeanne DuPrau. The People of Sparks. 2004. 338p. Random House.


While not quite as compelling, this sequel to City of Ember is a satisfying conclusion of Lina and Doon’s story.


The Midwife’s Tale

Laskas, Gretchen Moran. The Midwife’s Tale. 2003. 243p. Bantam Dell.

Genre: Fiction

Ages: High School and up


Elizabeth comes from a long line of West Virginian midwives: her mama is one, as was her grandma, and her great-grandma before that.  Elizabeth is training to be one herself until she learns the horrible secret her mama has been keeping from her.  Now Elizabeth’s not sure she wants to be a midwife but she is certain that she is going to be Alvin Denniker’s wife and live on Denniker’s hill – a  dream she holds on to even when Alvin brings home a wife named Ivy.  When Ivy goes into labor and needs a midwife, Elizabeth’s life changes.


I don’t usually like this type of story but this one lured me in from the beginning and kept me until the end.  Elizabeth is not a perfect protagonist; she seems real.  She wants things that aren’t good for her and can be darn right selfish at times but there’s something about her that made me want to hear her story.  Laskas layers on the details of life and midwiving in the early 20th century of West Virginia with such deft that I felt like I was right there with Elizabeth in the cabins helping a 30 some year old woman give birth to her 15th child.  Whoah.  Sure made me glad for hospitals and birth control.  Excellent read.


Personal Note: I met Gretchen at a children’s writer’s conference in Maryland.  She sat right down at my table, introduced herself, asked about us about our writing and hung out with us all day.  Very friendly fun person.  Read her book.  It’s good.

An Inconvenient Truth

Go see this movie.  Yes, it’s a slide show with Al Gore.  Okay, a fancy slide show with film clips, cartoon clips, a couple jokes, and dramatic scenes of climate change, but at heart it’s a slide show with Al Gore.  Go see this movie.

Wait. Why should you see this movie? 

Because it’s the best and clearest explanation of climate change aka global warming I’ve ever seen.  Because after you see this movie you will completely understand what climate change means.  You will understand how it’s going to affect you, what’s causing it, and why.  You find out how many scientists think it’s being caused by man (pretty much all of them) and why there still seems to be controversy about it.  (Gore uses an apt analogy of the tobacco industry’s 1960’s campaign to confuse people about the facts about tobacco and cancer). Go see this movie. 

The biggest flaw of the movie, for me, was that it’s very positive.  After seeing the facts laid out so clearly, I’m not as positive as Mr. Gore about the timeframe.  It looked to me like we have 5 –15 years tops to cool down the atmosphere before we reach the point of no return in ice melt and change the climate of earth irrevocably. 

This movie’s been out a while and Netflix and Amazon still don’t have a DVD release date for it.  Still… if you haven’t seen this yet, find a theater where it’s still playing and go.

What are you still doing here?  Go see this movie.

PS: Check out the movie’s website to learn more and even calculate your own impact. 

July & August 2006: In Brief

Movies Seen:

An Inconvenient Truth

Pirates of the Caribbean II

Serenity (on cable)

Books Finished:

The Wing and the Wall, by Laura Ruby

The Midwife’s Tale, by Gretchen Moran Laskas

Gossip Girl, by Cecily von Ziegesar

Still Reading:

American Theocracy, by Kevin Phillips

Fanfic Read: 

TV I Enjoyed:

Battlestar Galactica (season 1 and mid-season 2)- I’m completely addicted to this show.

Buffy (seasons 2 & 3 dubbed French with English subtitles – otherwise I don’t get all the jokes)




The “L” Word– Pretty much your typical soap except most everyone’s gay, as entertaining as most soaps but nothing special. 

Music I Listened To:   

O.C. Mix 5

Sub Jobs: 

None, it’s summer

Other Highlights:  
-Blasted returning ear and sinus infections with meds again.  I seem to be fine now.  Think I just need to stay on allergies medicine forever.

-Went to the MD/DE/WV SCBWI conference (local children’s writer’s conf.)


Weekend in Atlanta w/ the kids- saw the brand new Georgia Aquarium, the Stone Mountain laser show, the Olympic Fountain, and hung out with my sister and her family.

Week in Washington State w/ Martin and the kids– saw Orcas on a whale-watching cruise, went kayaking, walked around Hurricane Ridge at Olympic National Park, visited the Music Experience Museum in Seattle, saw my cousin and her family at the International Fountain—coolest fountain ever—and got the full guided tour of the Olympic Peninsula from my other sister and her family. Washington State goes on my list of “Places I might like to live some day” – along with Los Angeles – pretty scenery and laid-back feel.