The City of Ember

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The city of Ember was built as a last refuge for the human race. Two hundred years later, the great lamps that light the city are beginning to flicker. When Lina finds part of an ancient message, she's sure it holds a secret that will save the city. She and her friend Doon must decipher the message before the lights go out on Ember forever! This stunning debut novel offers refreshingly clear writing and fascinating, original characters.
Curriculet Details
45 Questions
41 Annotations
3 Quizzes

Designed for students in sixth grade, this free digital curriculum contains annotations explaining point of view, symbolism, and figurative language. It also contains interactive videos that support comprehension, such as videos about foreshadowing and dramatic irony. Over the course of the book, students will answer Common Core questions and quizzes related to the subjects of theme, conflict, and plot development. This free online unit will increase student engagement while building reading comprehension.

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The Instructions

At times, an author will begin a story with a prologue, telling an earlier story which connects to the main plot. Why do you think the author chose to begin The City of Ember in this way? What kind of effect does it have on the reader?  

Chapter 1

Based on the first two paragraphs, what can you infer about the city of Ember? Use textual evidence to support your thinking. 
How does Chet seem to feel about receiving the job of electrician's helper? Even though the text does not directly state how he feels, the author leaves clues to help us infer that he is feeling happy. Watch the video below to learn a little more about making inferences.  (This annotation contains a video)
How does Doon's outburst contribute to the development of the plot? 
Water is used to power generators in hydroelectric plants. In such a plant, rivers are dammed to make a source of falling water. This water falls with great power onto the blades of a turbine, causing them to turn. The turbine's energy sets generators in motion, which then produce electricity. (This annotation contains an image)

Chapter 2

To what is the dread being compared in this metaphor? How does this help to convey Lina's feelings? 
How does the flashback of the light-pole incident help to contribute to the development of the plot? 
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently. Is there a word on this page you need to look up? 
How does Mrs. Polster's style of teaching compare to that in your own classes? Do you agree that there is always a clear choice between right and wrong?  (This annotation contains an image)
How does the author's description of Lina's activities as messenger contribute to the development of the setting?   
The first time we heard mention of the seventh mayor was in "The Instructions." We now discover that this mayor is Lina's ancestor. Do you think this is a purposeful connection? Could the author be foreshadowing important things to come? Keep these thoughts in mind as you continue reading. Also, check out the video below to learn a little more about foreshadowing. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following words is closest in the meaning to the word pondered? 

Chapter 3

When we hear the term "washers," we may often think of washing machines. However, a washer can also refer to a thin, disk-shaped plate with a hole in the middle that is normally used to distribute the load of a screw or nut.  (This annotation contains an image)
What is the impact of the author's word choice in this sentence? 
In 2008, a film version of The City of Ember was released. The video clip below contains the film interpretation of this conversation between Doon and his father. As you watch it, consider how it compares to what you envisioned when reading. (This annotation contains a video)
Explain the differences between what you saw and heard when reading to your perception of what you heard and watched in the video clip. 

Chapter 4

At this point, you may have noticed that the narrator alternates between telling the story through Lina's eyes and Doon's eyes. This point of view is known as Third Person Limited Omniscient. Through this perspective, we are given a glimpse into Lina's and Doon's thoughts and feelings. However, it is limited to only Lina and Doon. There are many characters whose thoughts and feelings we do not know, such as the mayor and Poppy. As you continue reading, consider what effect this point of view has on the story. (This annotation contains an image)
Here, we see more foreshadowing regarding the seventh mayor. What can we infer "the lost thing" is? Use textual evidence to support your thinking. 
Clary's reaction tells the reader that 
Authors often use symbols to represent important ideas in a text. In this story, we have seen that darkness is often a symbol for the unknown. As you continue reading, be on the lookout for other uses of symbolism.  (This annotation contains an image)
What can you infer about Clary's character based on her dialogue with Lina? 
Irony is a contrast between expectation and reality. Dramatic irony occurs when a reader knows something a character does not know. Can you see the dramatic irony in the city that Lina envisions? Watch the video below to learn a little more about dramatic irony. (This annotation contains a video)

Chapter 5

It may seem a bit odd to us that Lina is this excited over a pack of colored pencils. However, it is important to remember how different Ember is from our society. To Lina, the pencils represent the ability to draw the pictures she sees inside her head. In that sense, the pencils are a symbol of her freedom of expression, and so it is even better that they are pristine and not used up, unlike almost everything else in Ember. (This annotation contains an image)
What feeling is the "it" referring to in this simile? 
Personification is a literary device in which an author grants human qualities to nonhuman things. For example, darkness cannot literally press against a person. The author is using personification. What effect does this have on both the writing and the reader? (This annotation contains an image)

Chapter 6

What is being personified in this sentence? What impact does this have on your understanding as a reader? 
Stories often have several themes, or universal truths, woven throughout them. In this passage, what universal truth and life message do you think the author is trying to convey regarding anger? 
The City of Ember, Quiz 1 
How does ending the chapter in this way contribute to the development of the plot? 

Chapter 7

What is being compared in this simile? How does this enhance the reader's understanding? 
An author's word choice has a major impact on the tone and mood of a text. For example, consider how the phrase "her mind whirled" enhances a mood of excitement. However, tone and mood are not the same thing. Check out the video below to better understand the difference between tone and mood. (This annotation contains a video)
Why do you think the author chose to not have Lizzie reveal her secret at this time? Could it foreshadow important things to come? 
Lizzie's reaction to the document tells the reader that 
Which piece of textual evidence provides the best support for explaining why Lina decides to take the document to Doon? 

Chapter 8

Here, we see Doon remembering his father's advice regarding the dangers of anger. Do you agree with Doon's father that anger should be avoided because it always brings about unexpected consequences? Can anger ever be constructive? 
Use the Define feature and read the definition for warped. Which of the following words is a synonym of warped as it is used in this sentence? 
An idiom is an expression that has a figurative meaning which is different from the literal meaning of the words. The people of Ember understand the figurative meanings of these phrases, even though they have no knowledge of the words' literal meanings. Why would the people of Ember not know common words, such as heavens, hog, or boat? Watch the video below to learn more about the difference between literal and figurative language. (This annotation contains a video)

Chapter 9

How does this dialogue about the door illustrate differences in Lina's and Doon's personalities? Use textual evidence to support your thinking. 
Lina reacts to the river much in the same way that Doon did upon first seeing it. They are both amazed by its size and power. For the most part, life in Ember is well contained, with everything planned out by the Builders. However, the river doesn't fit inside a neat, well-planned box. In a way, the river symbolizes all of nature, which the citizens of Ember have been deprived of for their entire lives. It is messy, wild, and chaotic. As you continue reading, consider what else the river may symbolize. (This annotation contains an image)
How does this line of dialogue impact the development of the plot? 
Which piece of text evidence helps us to infer Doon's true feelings about someone else finding the way out of Ember? 

Chapter 10

Why do you think seeing Lina makes the doctor appear to grow even more tired? What extra challenges do you think doctors would face in Ember? 
What is the dramatic irony in Lina drawing a blue sky? 
Here, we again see the impact the darkness has on the people of Ember. Can you think of ways in which the phrase "the darkness hid everything" could apply to other parts of the story? Keep this in mind as you continue reading. 

Chapter 11

Without changing the meaning of the sentence, which word can best be used to replace the word flickered? 
Authors often leave clues in the text in order to help us make inferences. What clues does the author give that Lizzie is hiding something? (This annotation contains an image)
What emotion is Lina struggling with in this passage? 
A theme is a central idea or message that is woven throughout a book. Watch the video below regarding themes and how they develop. As you watch, consider what thematic message the author is developing about greed in this story. (This annotation contains a video)
Lina's reaction to Lizzie's offer tells the reader that 

Chapter 12

We have seen Lina battle greed and Doon battle anger. Now, we discover that the mayor has betrayed his citizens. All of these things are examples of conflict in the story. Watch the video below to learn more about the two main types of conflict. (This annotation contains a video)
What makes Lina realize that Doon is her best friend? 

Chapter 13

What theme do you see developing in this story? What message about life is the author sending? 
Earlier in the story, we noted that darkness symbolizes the unknown. Here, we see that it can also symbolize the dark hunger of selfishness and greed within us. 
Did you notice that the bean starts to sprout right when Lina makes a breakthrough and learns that the document contains instructions for how to exit Ember? The author is again using symbolism. Just as the bean sprout breaks out of its shell and begins to flourish, Lina begins to figure out how the people of Ember can leave and find a new, hospitable place to live and flourish, too. (This annotation contains an image)
In the film, Doon makes a different choice. Watch the clip below to see the film's interpretation of this conversation between Doon and his father. (This annotation contains a video)
What differences do you notice when contrasting the film clip with the text? Which interpretation do you prefer? 
City of Ember, Quiz 2 

Chapter 14

How does the author’s word choice help convey Lina’s point of view? 
What mood does the author create as Doon and Lina work together to follow the Instructions? Some of us may describe it as a mood of excitement or suspense. How is this mood created? 
In this sentence, the word mottled means 
What does the river now symbolize for Doon and Lina? 

Chapter 15

Do you think the Builders planned wisely for the citizens of Ember? Would you have done things differently? 
What might Doon's caterpillar symbolize? In what way does this compare to Lina's bean sprout? 
Why do you think Nammy protected Doon? Can you think of any times earlier in the story where she stood up for Doon? 
Doon's reaction in this paragraph tells the reader that 
How does the author use word choice to set the mood of this passage? 
A lot has changed for Lina in a short amount of time. As we grow up, we often sense a distance between who we were as young children and who we are now. Have you ever had a similar experience to Lina's? 
Why do you think the author chose to have the reader see Lina from Doon's perspective in this passage? 
A cliffhanger is a device originally borrowed from serialized silent films in which an episode ends at a moment of great suspense. In literature, a cliffhanger often appears at the end of a chapter to encourage the reader to continue reading more. What is the cliffhanger at the end of this chapter? Does it make you want to keep reading? 

Chapter 16

Some may disagree with the mayor's statement. In what ways has curiosity helped Lina and Doon? In what ways has it put them in danger? 
Connotation is a word's suggested meaning or emotional association. Some words carry a positive connotation; some words carry a negative connotation. Often times, a word can be negative or positive depending on how it is used. Denotation, on the other hand, is the literal, dictionary definition of a word. In the highlighted sentence, does the mayor give the word "children" a negative or positive connotation? Check out the video below to learn a little more about denotation and connotation. (This annotation contains a video)
Here, we see Lina struggling with an internal conflict. An internal conflict takes place within a character's mind or heart, whereas an external conflict takes place between a character and an outside force. Do you think a story benefits from having both internal and external conflicts? 
What effect does ending the chapter this way have on the reader? 

Chapter 17

Without changing the meaning of the sentence, which word can best be used to replace the word kiosk? 
In the highlighted passage, what literary device does the author use to increase the reader's interest? 
Plot is the sequence of events in a story. Review the plot diagram below. Which stage of the plot do you think we have now entered? How do you know? (This annotation contains an image)
What does the word heaved mean in this sentence? 

Chapter 18

Here, Lina and Doon see stalactites and stalagmites. Stalactites and stalagmites are deposits of minerals that form into cave structures. Stalactites are the formations that hang from the ceilings of caves like icicles, while stalagmites look like they're emerging from the ground. Do you think the author effectively uses sensory and figurative language to describe these formations? (This annotation contains an image)
What emotion is associated with the word end in this sentence? 
Do words like "cozy" and "lamplight" tend to have negative or positive connotations? Why do you think this is the case? (This annotation contains an image)

Chapter 19

Use the Define feature to read the definition of refugees. What does it tell us about Ember for the Builders to refer to the citizens of Ember as refugees? 
Do you feel this simile provides an accurate vision of stars in the sky? Can you imagine what it would be like to see stars for the first time? (This annotation contains an image)
How is figurative language used to enhance this passage? What mood does it help to set? 

Chapter 20

From what "world" can we infer this woman is coming? Was she correct that someone in the future may need the information in her journal? 
Why do you think they named the babies Star and Forest? Support your thinking with textual evidence. 
Do you feel this simile provides a good description of sweeping meadows? Which words best help you to make a picture in your mind? (This annotation contains an image)
Based on the textual evidence in the highlighted paragraphs, what animal can we infer Lina and Doon are watching? 
City of Ember, Quiz 3 
The author ends this book with a cliffhanger. What do you think Mrs. Murdo will do after reading the message? Find out in the sequel, The People of Sparks!  (This annotation contains an image)