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On Sale: June 22, 2004
Pages: 352 | ISBN: 978-0-375-89050-5
Published by : Random House Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books

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On Sale: May 25, 2004
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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. When anonymous acts of vandalism push them toward violence, it’s up to Lina and Doon to discover who’s behind the vandalism and why, before it’s too late.

From the Hardcover edition.


Chapter 1
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.

Out beyond the cabbage field was another field, where young tomato and corn and squash plants were growing, and beyond that the land sloped up into a grassy hillside dotted, at this time of year, with yellow mustard flowers. Torren saw something strange at the top of the hill. Something dark.

There were bits of darkness at first-for a second he thought maybe it was a deer, or several deer, black ones instead of the usual light brown, but the shape was wrong for deer, and the way these things moved was wrong, too. He realized very soon that he was seeing people, a few people at first and then more and more of them. They came up from the other side of the hill and gathered at the top and stood there, a long line of them against the sky, like a row of black teeth. There must have been a hundred, Torren thought, or more than a hundred.

In all his life, Torren had never seen more than three or four people at a time arrive at the village from elsewhere. Almost always, the people who came were roamers, passing through with a truckload of stuff from the old towns to sell. This massing of people on

the hilltop terrified him. For a moment he couldn't move. Then his heart started up a furious pounding, and he scrambled down off the wind tower so fast that he scraped his hands on the rough boards.

"Someone's coming!" he shouted as he passed the workers. They looked up, startled. Torren ran at full speed toward the low cluster of brown buildings at the far end of the field. He turned up a dirt lane, his feet raising swirls of dust, and dashed through the gate in the wall and across the courtyard and in through the open door, all the time yelling, "Someone's coming! Up on the hill! Auntie Hester! Someone's coming!"

He found his aunt in the kitchen, and he grabbed her by the waist of her pants and cried, "Come and see! There's people on the hill!" His voice was so shrill and urgent and loud that his aunt dropped the spoon into the pot of soup she'd been stirring and hurried after him. By the time they got outside, others from the village were leaving their houses, too, and looking toward the hillside.

The people were coming down. Over the crest of the hill they came and kept coming, dozens of them, more and more, like a mudslide.

The people of the village crowded into the streets. "Get Mary Waters!" someone called. "Where's Ben and Wilmer? Find them, tell them to get out here!"

Torren was less frightened now that he was surrounded by the townspeople. "I saw them first," he said to Hattie Carranza, who happened to be hurrying along next to him. I was the one who told the news."

"Is that right," said Hattie.

"We won't let them do anything bad to us," said Torren. "If they do, we'll do something worse to them. Won't we?"

But she just glanced down at him with a vague frown and didn't answer.

The three village leaders–Mary Waters, Ben Barlow, and Wilmer Dent–had joined the crowd by now and were leading the way across the cabbage field. Torren kept close behind them. The strangers were getting nearer, and he wanted to hear what they would say. He could see that they were terrible-looking people. Their clothes were all wrong–coats and sweaters, though the weather was warm, and not nice coats and sweaters but raggedy ones, patched, unraveling, faded, and grimy. They carried bundles, all of them: sacks made of what looked like tablecloths or blankets gathered up and tied with string around the neck. They moved clumsily and slowly. Some of them tripped on the uneven ground and had to be helped up by others.

In the center of the field, where the smell of new cabbages and fresh dirt and chicken manure was strong, those at the front of the crowd of strangers met the village leaders. Mary Waters stepped to the front, and the villagers crowded up behind her. Torren, being
small, wriggled between people until he had a good view. He stared at the ragged people. Where were their leaders? Facing Mary were a girl and a boy who looked only a little older than he was himself. Next to them was a bald man, and next to him a sharp-eyed woman holding a small child. Maybe she was the leader.

But when Mary stepped forward and said, "Who are you?" it was the boy who answered. He spoke in a clear, loud voice that surprised Torren, who had expected a pitiful voice from someone so bedraggled. "We come from the city of Ember," the boy said. "We left there because our city was dying. We need help."

Mary, Ben, and Wilmer exchanged glances. Mary frowned. "The city of Ember? Where's that? We've never heard of it. "

The boy gestured back the way they had come, to the east. "That way," he said. "It's under the ground."

From the Hardcover edition.
Jeanne DuPrau

About Jeanne DuPrau

Jeanne DuPrau - The People of Sparks

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.


“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.
Teachers Guide

Teacher's Guide


The City of Ember

In the underground city of Ember, young Lina and Doon struggle with clues in order to reveal both the history of their city and a way to save the population before their source of light dwindles away to nothing.

Jeanne DuPrau presents a colorless society with a bleak future in The City of Ember. The citizens of Ember live underground where they face daily blackouts, food shortages, and corrupt politicians. With the source of light waning, two young citizens take it upon themselves to unlock the secret to Ember’s mysterious past. Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow navigate this post-apocalyptic world in an attempt to decode a cryptic message that may save them all.

The People of Sparks

Followed by fellow Emberites, Lina and Doon emerge from the underground city and are taken in by the first town they encounter–but the additional population puts a strain on the town’s resources, inciting conflict.

Having escaped from the underground world of Ember, Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow emerge into the post-disaster village of Sparks. The world of Sparks stands in stark contrast to life in Ember. Sparks glitters with its brilliant light, radiant color, and seemingly abundant resources. As the strain of adding new members to its community begins to take its toll, the people of Sparks resort to survival instincts in an effort to conserve resources. Conflicts emerge as leaders bicker and friendships begin to wane. It takes the courage and leadership of the novel’s young characters to unify the village as they attempt to create a harmonious world.


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 writes for several hours each day and finds inspiration in a quote from Thomas Mann that says, “A writer is someone for whom writing is harder than it is for other people.” This quote guides. DuPrau’s writing, which she often finds to be a challenging task. DuPrau knew she wanted to be a writer at a young age and has tried related careers in teaching, technical writing, and editing. She has written three novels, six books of nonfiction, and with essays and stories. She lives in California where she loves to garden.

Check out the Author Spotlight http://www.randomhouse.com/teachers/authors/results.pperl?authorid=7639
on Jeannie DuPrau
or visit the author’s official site!


Pre-Reading Activities

The City of Ember Pre-Reading Activity:
Mock Assignment Day–Explain that today is “Assignment Day” and students will get a job placement that will determine their future within the community. Distribute mock job assignments to students and give a talk about service to one’s community. Ask students how they feel about being assigned to a profession. Ask them to speculate on what kind of world they are going to read about, where people are assigned jobs to work as messengers, laborers, electrician’s helpers, and supply clerks.

The People of Sparks
Pre-Reading Activity
What Is Community?–Ask students to write an essay about community using the following writing prompt: What is the role of a community? Is the community responsible for taking care of every citizen? Ask students to share their writing responses and discuss how they would react if they were asked to give up vital resources for strangers being added to their community. Consider role-playing the idea of “survival of the fittest” to demonstrate what happens when a community’s resources are strained, and individuals begin to rely on survival instincts.

Thematic Connections
Questions for Group Discussion

Family–The main characters of both novels have nontraditional family structures. Discuss with students how the main characters acclimate to their unconventional families in the towns of Ember and Sparks. How do their family relationships change from one book to the next? How does the absence of a mother affect both Doon and Lina? Both Doon and Lina are very responsible young people. How are their responsible dispositions related to their family roles?

Lina and Doon share a friendship in both novels, and Doon attempts a friendship with Tick in The People of Sparks. Lina and Doon recognize positive and negative qualities in their friendships, a key aspect of accepting someone as your friend. Ask students to keep a log of how Lina and Doon perceive their friendships and how their friendships wax and wane throughout both books. What personality traits do they admire in one another and in Tick? What qualities do they find troublesome in each other and in Tick? As an extension activity, ask students to write a paragraph describing what they admire about their best friends.

The Effects of War–
Both novels are set in a post apocalyptic world. Ember is a last refuge for the human race and Sparks is a post-disaster society starting over. Ask students to identify the lasting effects of war on both societies. What is the author’s message to readers? Ask students to imagine a world where technology and abundant resources no longer exist. How would their lives be altered?

How does greed escalate to conflict? Ask students to trace incidents of greed by both townspeople and politicians as the characters progress from one novel to the next. Create a timeline that illustrates how townspeople allowed fear and greed to lead them into battle. What is the ultimate message about greed in both novels? What is the message about humankind and war? What is the author trying to say about corruption and power? Are the events of these novels a realistic reflection of human nature?

Community Leadership–
In small groups, ask students to discuss the role of community leadership in both novels and whether the leaders acted as good role models. Which characters provided true leadership for the towns? When times were tough, how did the leaders of Ember and Sparks provide for the citizens fairly?

Connecting to the Curriculum

Art–Lina dreams of a world full of color and wonders what it might look like. She uses drawing as a way to express her dreams about faraway cities and unknown regions. She says that pictures can capture an idea or a place in ways language cannot. Ask students to sketch a place they have often dreamed about, like Lina does, and carefully select colors that reflect the mood and tone of the dream. Request that students accompany their artwork with a one-page explanatory essay.

Language Arts–Ask students to write a magazine article for a travel magazine that describes either Ember or Sparks as a travel destination. Cite lines from either text that describe what it’s like to live in Ember or Sparks. Ask students to use elements of descriptive language like imagery, simile, and metaphor in their writing.

Science–Both novels hinge on electricity, whether it’s a waning light source in The City of Ember or the need to reinvent electricity in The People of Sparks. Using the internet resources in this guide, have students research the fundamentals of electricity. How does it work? Who discovered it? What are the key scientific principles behind it? As an extension, encourage students to explore the Watt’s on Your Mind Web site http://www.wattsnew.com/wattsnew3/castlegate/castlegate.html to learn about wasting electricity.

The idea of growing food and nurturing plants from seeds is paramount in both books. Have students grow food from seeds and research the science behind it, like photosynthesis and the life cycle of a plant. Helpful suggestions for lesson plans can be found in these Web sites:

Social Studies & Geography–When the citizens of Ember escape their dark society for a more promising land, they became refugees. Ask students to define the word refugee and research the global refugee crisis. Provide your students with a brief overview of the top 10 locations on the planet with the highest population of refugees, then ask them to each choose one, and give a three page overview of that location’s current refugee situation as well as a brief history of its cause.

Ask students to use a map to pinpoint the 10 areas of the world with the most refugees: Afghanistan, Angola, Burma, Burundi, Congo-Kinshasa, Eritrea, Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Somalia, and Sudan. Have students consider why refugees flee their homelands and why some countries deny refugees access into their territories. This assignment is suitable for older grades.

Economics–The principles of supply and demand dictate what resources are available in the towns of Ember and Sparks. As Lina says in The City of Ember, “You can’t divide a can of applesauce evenly among all the people in the city” (p. 153). Teach students about the concept of supply and demand and ask them to make a list of all the items in the novels that are in demand. Then ask students to think about the creative ways in which the novel’s characters supply these items.

Music–The townspeople of Ember have a “Song of the City” that describes the town and its people. Ask students to write a song, the lyrics of which reflect the spirit and the mission of their community and describe the kind of people who live there. Encourage students to use melodies that reflect the tone of the written descriptions.


Vocabulary / Use of Language

The language in The City of Ember is descriptive and thought provoking. Students should define the following words by using the context of the novel: resonant (p. 29), enmeshed (p. 55), moldering (p. 57), pungent (p. 59), and chortled (p.92).

The language in The People of Sparks is equally as challenging. Words for study include: tasseled (p.25), flummoxed (p.67), and thermodynamics (p. 110). To deepen vocabulary understanding, challenge students to use the words in a descriptive paragraph about an event or character from one of the novels.


Lily’s Crossing
Patricia Reilly Giff
Effects of War • Friendship • Family
Grades 4—7 / 0-440-41453-9

All the Way Home
Patricia Reilly Giff
Bravery • Friendship • Belonging
Grades 5 up / 0-440-41182-3

Pictures of Hollis Woods
Patricia Reilly Giff
Family • Friendship • Belonging
Grades 3—8 / 0-385-32655-6
Wendy Lamb Books

The Secret Garden
Frances Hodgson Burnett
Bravery • Friendship • Belonging
Grades 5—9 / 0-440-40055-4

The War Between the Classes
Gloria Milowitz
Discrimination • Racism • Prejudice
Grades 5 up / 0-440-99406-3


Prepared by Jennifer L. Hart, International Baccalaureate Coordinator, Thomas Jefferson High School, Richmond, Virginia.



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