One of the sections of the library I’ve really tried to familiarize myself since I’ve worked in a library is the children’s section. Being 33 years old, I haven’t been exposed to kiddie lit since I was a young ‘un myself. If a bright-eyed eleven-year-old ever comes up to me looking for a recommendation for something to read, I might give them a Stephen King book to read since that’s what I was reading when I was eleven. (This probably explains a lot about me.) So I’ve been dipping my toe into the Js and the YAs of late, wanting to get a feel for what’s out there.
Once that I was really struck by is The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau, a fictional tale with some sci-fi elements that really worked well for me. Ember is a city in perpetual darkness – there is no sun, no moon, or no stars. Twelve hours a day light is provided by electric lamps dotted throughout the city. Citizens are assigned jobs and get food and supplies from the city’s massive storerooms full of items left to them by the Builders. However things are decaying in Ember – supplies are running out and the electricity fails more often than not. No one is looking for solutions for the city’s problems, because that’s the way things always were and always will be. Two children who wonder what is beyond the darkness are at the heart of the story, and they discover a secret that might lead to Ember’s salvation.
The story has a modern fairy-tale quality to it that’s not patronising, which makes it interesting to adults as well as kids. The children have no special abilities or magical beings that help them – they use their intelligence and their curiosity and their ability to see a broader picture to work their way toward a solution, and as they get closer, the reader is pulled into the story right alongside them. It’s great stuff, meant for 9-12 year olds but adults can enjoy it guilt-free. The book wraps up with a satisfying ending that leads right into the sequel (which I haven’t read yet, and will probably review here once I do.) Well worth checking out.