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'The People of Sparks'     Send a link to a friend

[SEPT. 8, 2004]  "The People of Sparks," by Jeanne DuPrau, Random House, 2004, 338 pages.

The People of SparksReview by
Linda Harmon

The adventures of Lina and Doon continue in "The People of Sparks," the sequel to "The City of Ember." [Review] Having escaped their dying underground home, Lina and Doon have led a group of approximately 400 Emberites to a new world above ground. The first place they come to is a village called Sparks.

As the story opens, a boy named Torren is at the edge of a cabbage field when he first sees the people. The people of Sparks have never seen more than four new people from the outer regions at one time. At first both groups of people are terrified of each other. The three village leaders -- Mary, Ben and Wilmer -- are called, and after questioning the people from Ember, they reach an agreement.

The people of Ember will be allowed to stay in Sparks for six months. The village will attempt to feed and house the people of Ember, and in exchange the Emberites will work for the people of Sparks. The leaders aren't sure how they will pull this off since the village itself only has 322 people and they are barely producing enough food for themselves. After six months their goal is for the people of Ember to leave Sparks and start a town of their own.

The majority of the Emberites will be housed outside of town in an old, bombed-out hotel. Because Lina's little sister, Poppy, is very ill, she and Mrs. Murdo, their guardian, will stay with the village doctor, Hester Crane. The doctor is pleasant enough but very preoccupied with her work. She is the only medical person in the village.


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Torren also lives with the doctor. He has an older brother, Casper, who is a roamer. A roamer is similar to our antique dealers of today; they are constantly on the look for items from the past. Casper finds these treasures in the ruins of cities. Lina still dreams of the city she drew when she lived in Ember, so when Casper shows up at the doctor's house, she stows away in his truck. This turns out to be a much bigger adventure than she planned for.

It doesn't take long for problems to arise between the people of Sparks and the people of Ember. The hotel isn't a great place for the Emberites to live, since it has no electricity or indoor plumping, which they had in Ember. The people of Sparks don't have these amenities and find it hard to believe that Ember had them. The heat is also a problem for Emberites; they get very sunburned and have trouble with stamina while working. When they need a break, the Sparks people think they are lazy and ungrateful. Food is not plentiful and the Sparks people begin to resent sharing it with 400 strangers.

As conflicts escalate, Doon becomes involved with a new character, the charismatic and militaristic Tick, formerly of Ember. Tick uses every opportunity to incite the Emberites. When Lina returns a month later after roaming with Casper, war seems imminent. The village of Sparks has a weapon left over from past wars, and they are ready to use it if they are threatened. The Emberites are armed with towel bars and sticks. Lina and Doon know they must stop this insanity at all costs, but how? The conclusion is dramatic and hopeful.

This thought-provoking and well-written novel is suggested for ages 9 to 13.

[Linda Harmon, Lincoln Public Library District]

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