Shared literature is one of the best parts of adolescence, I think. It takes some doing on the part of the parent, but I think it is well worth the effort for the connection you can make with your child(ren).
The City of Ember
I stumbled upon this book at a wonderful used bookstore in the nearest big city to us. We can all lose ourselves for hours there (although the little ones would cost us a fortune if we let them pile up books in our carts for all that time!) browsing and finding treasures. They have a great audio book section and this is where I happened upon the first book in the series.
When I first picked it it up and read the back, I didn’t see it for the potential it really has. In the first story, a group of people are living in an underground city, but time is running out for these people. They are nearly out of food, their electricity is getting unpredictable, and they realize that their government is corrupt. They must find an alternative or their way of life is in jeopardy. It takes two young people who aren’t too indoctrinated in “the way things are” to solve the problem.
I didn’t originally realize that the book was the first of a series. (That would not have stopped me from getting it on audio since I frequently play only the first in a series of books, just to whet the appetite for the sequels in my school-agers so they will be drawn to read more quality literature on their own). I came upon the sequel at the public library (again in the big city nearest to us, where we pay to have borrowing privileges since our local town library has such an anemic selection). I think this second one in the series is better than the first.
The People of Sparks
In the People of Sparks, the story gets much more interesting (to my way of thinking). The citizens of Ember have found their way out of the cave they have lived in (unknowingly) for generations and have nothing as they wander forward on the surface.
They come up0n a village of people who have survived the “Great Disaster” and have made a life for themselves. The villagers have to decide whether they should take in these poor homeless people or not, and if so, how. Sound like a familiar “preparedness” topic now?
The reader/listener is predisposed to favor the people of Ember since they know them “personally” from the first book. But, from an objective point of view, these people represent the oft-discussed “Golden Horde.” It’s so easy when it’s “those people” who are lazy, stupid, etc., but how about when they are real people who find themselves in need.
They are willing to do their share but they just don’t know how and have nothing to offer. Do you turn them away? Do you give them X amount of your stored goods and threaten them if they come back? What is the right thing to do? And when the inevitable disagreements pop up, how do you settle them?
The children and I have had many very interesting, fertile conversations about how each turn of the story should be interpreted and dealt with. In many ways, this is a story of rebuilding society. As such, it is mighty important whom you choose to be your leader(s).
We have talked about types of government (democratic, Socialist, etc.), the value of being a leader who see both sides of the issue and anticipate outcomes, the importance of being a problem-s0lver, of understanding history, and so on. We’ve talked about charismatic leaders of the past and the path they’ve led their followers down. There are really so many excellent discussion opportunities! It has been one of the best stories we have listened to together so far.
The Final Analysis
I would highly recommend these books for you and your family if you have adolescents. Now, that I have done a little more research, I see that there are three books in the the series and that the third one chronicles the “great disaster” that led to the events told of in books two and three.
In addition, I see that the first book is being made into a movie now. Always better to read the books first, huh?
So, have you read these books yet? How did you like them? Would you recommend them to those with children? To everyone?