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The City of Ember

The Graphic Novel

Written by Jeanne DuPrauAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Jeanne DuPrau
Adapted by Dallas MiddaughAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Dallas Middaugh
Illustrated by Niklas AskerAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Niklas Asker

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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

In the spring 2003, kids, parents, teachers, librarians—whole communities—discovered and fell in love with Jeanne DuPrau's story about a doomed city, and the two children who found a way out. Nearly 10 years later, that story, The City of Ember, is a bona fide classic, with over 1.7 million copies sold. Now experience Jeanne DuPrau's vision anew as artist Niklas Asker faithfully brings to life the glare of the lamps, the dinginess of the streets, and the brilliance of the first sunrise.

Excerpt

The Instructions
When the city of Ember was just built and not yet inhabited, the Chief Builder and the Assistant Builder, both of them weary, sat down to speak of the future.

“They must not leave the city for at least two hundred years,” said the Chief Builder. “Or perhaps two hundred and twenty.”

“Is that long enough?” asked his Assistant.

“It should be. We can’t know for sure.”

“And when the time comes,” said the Assistant, “how will they know what to do?”

“We’ll provide them with instructions, of course,” the Chief Builder replied.

“But who will keep the instructions? Who can we trust to keep them safe and secret all that time?”

“The mayor of the city will keep the instructions,” said the Chief Builder. “We’ll put them in a box with a timed lock, set to open on the proper date.”

“And will we tell the mayor what’ s in the box?” the Assistant asked.

“No, just that it’s information they won’t need and must not see until the box opens of its own accord.”

“So the first mayor will pass the box to the next mayor, and that one to the next, and so on down through the years, all of them keeping it secret, all that time?”

“What else can we do?” asked the Chief Builder. “Nothing about this endeavor is certain. There may be no one left in the city by then or no safe place for them to come back to.”

So the first mayor of Ember was given the box, told to guard it carefully, and solemnly sworn to secrecy. When she grew old, and her time as mayor was up, she explained about the box to her successor, who also kept the secret carefully, as did the next mayor. Things went as planned for many years. But the seventh mayor of Ember was less honorable than the ones who’d come before him, and more desperate. He was ill–he had the coughing sickness that was common in the city then–and he thought the box might hold a secret that would save his life. He took it from its hiding place in the basement of the Gathering Hall and brought it home with him, where he attacked it with a hammer.

But his strength was failing by then. All he managed to do was dent the lid a little. And before he could return the box to its official hiding place or tell his successor about it, he died. The box ended up at the back of a closet, shoved behind some old bags and bundles. There it sat, unnoticed, year after year, until its time arrived, and the lock quietly clicked open.

Chapter 1
Assignment Day
In the city of Ember, the sky was always dark. The only light came from great floodlamps mounted on the buildings and at the tops of poles in the middle of the larger squares. When the lights were on, they cast a yellowish glow over the streets; people walking by threw long shadows that shortened and then stretched out again. When the lights were off, as they were between nine at night and six in the morning, the city was so dark that people might as well have been wearing blindfolds.

Sometimes darkness fell in the middle of the day. The city of Ember was old, and everything in it, including the power lines, was in need of repair. So now and then the lights would flicker and go out. These were terrible moments for the people of Ember. As they came to a halt in the middle of the street or stood stock still in their houses, afraid to move in the utter blackness, they were reminded of something they preferred not to think about: that some day the lights of the city might go out and never come back on.

But most of the time life proceeded as it always had. Grown people did their work, and younger people, until they reached the age of twelve, went to school. On the last day of their final year, which was called Assignment Day, they were given jobs to do.

The graduating students occupied Room 8 of the Ember School. On Assignment Day of the year 241, this classroom, usually noisy first thing in the morning, was completely silent. All twenty-four students sat upright and still in the desks they had grown too big for. They were waiting.

The desks were arranged in four rows of six, one behind the other. In the last row sat a slender girl named Lina Mayfleet. She was winding a strand of her long, dark hair around her finger, winding and unwinding it again and again. Sometimes she plucked at a loose thread on her ragged cape or bent over to pull on her socks, which were loose and tended to slide down around her ankles. One of her feet tapped the floor softly.

In the second row was a boy named Doon Harrow. He sat with his shoulders hunched, his eyes squeezed shut in concentration, and his hands clasped tightly together. His hair looked rumpled, as if he hadn’t combed it for a while. He had dark, thick eyebrows, which made him look serious at the best of times, and when he was anxious or angry came together to form a straight line across his forehead. His brown corduroy jacket was so old that its ridges had flattened out.

Both the girl and the boy were making urgent wishes. Doon’s wish was very specific. He repeated it over and over again, his lips moving slightly, as if he could make it come true by saying it a thousand times. Lina was making her wish in pictures rather than in words. In her mind’s eye, she saw herself running through the streets of the city in a red jacket. She made this picture as bright and real as she could.
Jeanne DuPrau

About Jeanne DuPrau

Jeanne DuPrau - The City of Ember

Photo © RHCB

"What could be more interesting than thinking of mysterious happenings, finding the answers to intriguing questions, and making up new worlds?"--Jeanne DuPrau

Jeanne DuPrau has been a teacher, an editor, and a technical writer. The People of Sparks is her second novel and the sequel to the highly acclaimed The City of Ember. Ms. DuPrau lives in Menlo Park, California, where she keeps a big garden and a small dog.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

“When did you decide to be a writer?” people often ask me. Well, it was like this:

At about age 6, I wrote my first book, or at least the first book of mine that survives to the present day. It’s called “Frosty the Snowman.” It’s five pages long, illustrated with red and green crayon, and bound with loops of yarn.

My next extant work dates, I think, from the seventh grade. It’s a collection of stories handwritten on lined newsprint. One is about a merry-go-round that mysteriously flies off into the air. Another is about a girl who mysteriously disappears while ice skating. A third is about a seashell that mysteriously opens a door to an underwater world. It’s not hard to deduce that mysterious happenings were what I loved best at the time–a wardrobe door leading to Narnia, a rabbit hole leading to Wonderland, a nanny who flew away when the wind changed.

A year or two later, I started reading Dickens. I loved the world of Dickens’s novels, full of colorful characters and wildly complicated plots. I decided to write Dickensian stories myself. To prepare for this, I put together notebooks with headings on each page for character names, settings, plot ideas, and beginning sentences. I wrote pages and pages of great names (Ophelia Gordonswaithe, Hester Hollyhock), lists of settings (an insane asylum, a deserted railway station), and beginning sentences (“A sharp laugh broke the heavy silence”). I didn’t actually write very many stories, though. I think I wrote three or four, but only one of them went all the way to the end. The rest petered out after a couple of pages–or a couple of paragraphs.

But I kept at it. All through school, I wrote and wrote. Some of this writing my teachers assigned–book reports, college essays, my senior thesis. Some I assigned myself–stories, poems, journals, letters. After I graduated from college (an English major, of course), I did several different kinds of work, but they all involved writing and reading in one way or another. I taught high school English (and started a creative writing club for my students). I worked as an editor in educational publishing companies (and wrote stories for reading textbooks). I worked for a computer company (and wrote about how to use computers).

At the same time, after work, on weekends, whenever I could fit it in, I was doing my own writing. I wrote about people I knew, experiences I’d had, books I’d read, ideas that had occurred to me. I started sending these pieces of writing out into the world, and quite often they were published. I wrote a book, and then another book. The more I wrote, the more things I thought of to write about.

So the answer to the question, “When did you decide to be a writer?” is: Never. I never decided anything–I just wrote and kept on writing, because writing was what I liked to do. What could be more interesting than thinking of mysterious happenings, finding the answers to intriguing questions, and making up new worlds? Writers have a great job. I’m glad to be one.
Praise | Awards

Praise

Starred Review, School Library Journal, November 2012:
“­Lina and Doon have spent their entire lives surrounded by darkness. Lina is an optimist and a dreamer who just knows there is something beyond the city of her birth. Doon is much more practical. He knows that if he can just get a good look underground, he can fix the city's constant blackout problem. A chance encounter on Assignment Day allows the two children to meet and exchange jobs, essentially giving the other what they've always wanted. They start to unearth an evil plot by the city's obese and greedy mayor to steal away precious resources from the people who live there. Using clues left behind by Lina's late grandmother, they travel beneath Ember's tunnels in a desperate attempt to find a way out. Based on DuPrau's novel (Random, 2003), the story brings the city of Ember to life using many muted yellows and earth tones. While the interior vantage points from Lina's and Doon's perspectives make Ember's public buildings and homes seem large, advanced exterior shots surrounded entirely in black give readers a sense of just how isolated Ember is. Lina's wonder and Doon's frustration are easily visible through Asker's skill in detailing facial expressions, helping to visually elevate a story literally besieged by shadows. Dystopian stories can be dark, and this one is literally so, but its ultimately hopeful message will resonate.”

Booklist, October 15, 2012:
"The city of Ember, the only light in a vast world of darkness, is dying and two young teens might be the only ones who can find the way out of their darkening town--if they can escape the machinations of a corrupt mayor. DuPrau's well-received dystopian and postapocalyptic middle-grade novel is ably adapted into graphic-novel form by Middaugh and Asker. The result is a streamlined work that moves quickly while retaining the heart of the original story. Readers new and old will appreciate the muted colors of Asker's artwork, which clearly shows the dinginess of Ember and the generic quality of people who have bred past specific races."

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2012:
"Effective use of light and shadow in the art give this graphic adaptation of the 2003 novel a properly spooky look. The tale is told in a visual, cinematic way with an admixture of quick reaction shots and wordless action sequences that allow readers to race along almost as fast as they can turn the pages. Asker's penumbral scenes underground and broad, grassy Eden above are strongly atmospheric and depict both settings and the clearly delineated cast (particularly the grossly corpulent Mayor) in tellingly crisp detail."


From the Hardcover edition.

Awards

NOMINEE Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award
NOMINEE Hawaii Nene Award

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