The People of Sparks
by Jeanne DuPrau
This book is a sequel to The City of Ember
. At the end of the previous book, 12-year-old Doon and Lina led over 400 people out of their failing city, only to discover that they had been living underground! Emerging into a strange world of blue skies, plants that grow wild, and animals they have never seen before, the people of Ember follow the nearest road until they reach the small village of Sparks.
The people of Sparks are, at first, unsure what to make of these strange cave people. In spite of their mutual distrust, and the fact that each group considers the other to be backward (for different reasons), the villagers agree to help the Emberites adjust to surface life. They give them a place to stay, food out of their stores, and work to do, but on the understanding that it is only for six months; the town leaders worry that, if they help the Emberites much more, it will bring hardship on their village just as they were starting to prosper.
The Emberites have a lot to learn. They have missed over 200 years of history. They do not understand anything about the wars and plagues that nearly wiped out the human race while they were safely tucked in their underground city. Nor do they understand why the people of Sparks resent them, under-feed them, over-work them, and automatically suspect them of doing things they did not do. Tension between the two groups escalates toward open war.
Lina and Doon, meanwhile, follow separate paths to the same conclusion: the people of Ember cannot survive if they are forced to leave Sparks; but once the two groups go to war, they will never be able to live together. Something has to be done to stop the descending spiral of destruction. Someone must do something hard something courageous something good to break the cycle of hatred and retaliation. If no one bigger steps forward to do it, can a couple of children make a difference?
This book is a powerful parable about conflict and violence: its cause, its cost, and its alternatives. Full of tension and tenderness, a searching for home and hope, it allows the reader to understand and even sympathize with the fear and anger that can lead to violence. And it at least tries to teach us to look for an opening to do good even though it can be the hardest thing in the world to do. Such a beautiful, exciting, fascinating book deserves to be on anybodys short list of post-Deathly Hallows reading goals. I can hardly wait to read the next book in this series, titled The Prophet of Yonwood.
Recommended Age: 12+
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