The People of Sparks picks up where The City of Ember leaves off. Lina and Doon have emerged from the underground city to the exciting new world above, and it isn't long before they are followed by the other inhabitants of Ember. The Emberites soon come across a town where they are welcomed, fed, and given places to sleep. But the town's resources are limited and it isn't long before resentment begins to grow between the two groups.
At the end of The City of Ember, DuPrau's spellbinding debut, Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow, having made it safely out of their underground city, toss a message down through a chasm. This ambitious sequel opens as a boy, Torren, spies the survivors of Ember heading toward him, and he's "terrified." Torren's reaction foreshadows those of his fellow citizens. After Lina and Doon and the 417 people of Ember arrive in the town of Sparks ("We have not been aware of any post-Disaster settlements nearby, much less a city," their leaders claim), its citizens share their food and shelter, and they train the people of Ember to work in the fields with the goal of helping them set up a town of their own. But two lone acts of sabotage begin to eat away at the fragile trust between them. DuPrau takes on a sprawling world on the surface of the planet, and once again skillfully and confidently develops the idea of scarcity and how human beings react to a depletion of resources. However, the characterizations here take a back seat (for instance, Lina never visits Clary, an adult friend who played a pivotal role in Ember; and Sadge Merrall and Mrs. Polster, both with strong personalities in Ember, melt into the masses while virtually invisible citizens such as Tick become major players). Linastows away in a wagon headed for the city (to see if it could be the one she drew in Ember); her experience at its ruins result in an epiphany for Lina that, oddly, has little impact on the rest of the novel. DuPrau offers a thought-provoking novel about brinkmanship and the way societies can plant the insidious seeds of war. Her overall message is ultimately uplifting, but it comes at the expense of the development of characters that made Ember so memorable. Ages 8-12. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Random House Books for Young Readers
April 12, 2005
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Excerpt from The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau
What Torren Saw
Torren was out at the edge of the cabbage field that day, the day the people came. He was supposed to be fetching a couple of cabbages for Dr. Hester to use in the soup that night, but, as usual, he didn't see why he shouldn't have some fun while he was at it. So he climbed up the wind tower, which he wasn't supposed to do because, they said, he might fall or get his head sliced off by the big blades going round and round. The wind tower was four-sided, made of boards nailed one above the next like the rungs of a ladder. Torren climbed the back side of it, the side that faced the hills and not the village, so that the little group of workers hoeing the cabbage rows wouldn't see him. At the top, he turned around and sat on the flat place behind the blades, which turned slowly in the idle summer breeze. He had brought a pocketful of small stones up with him, planning on some target practice: he liked to try to hit the chickens that rummaged around between the rows of cabbages. He thought it might be fun to bounce a few pebbles off the hats of the workers, too. But before he had even taken the stones from his pocket, he caught sight of something that made him stop and stare.