In her fourth and final Ember book, The Diamond of Darkhold, author Jeanne DuPrau brings us back to Lina and Doon, picking up where they left off in the town of Sparks. Lina has settled into a quite life in town working with the town doctor while Doon is working hard to build a new life for the people of Ember. While Lina’s character has mellowed and matured (she’s not quite the carefree adventurer we remember) Doon is as curious and driven as ever. So, when Doon proposes that he and Lina embark on their most dangerous journey yet, Lina needs convincing. But, with their fellow townspeople suffering from harsh conditions and little food, Lina knows Doon has the right idea. It’s time for them to return to Ember.
The Diamond of Darkhold provides the perfect end to this fun and exciting literature adventure. Discovering along with Lina and Doon what is left of Ember after the mass exodus is both thrilling and sad. Additionally, we are given a glimpse into the future for Lina, Doon, and the others of Ember as well as the town of Sparks. Our protagonists are once again young heroes saving their home, this time led by Doon.
Pages – 285
Lexile – 790
Grade Level Interest – 5th-8th
What I love most about this series is how well it can tie into middle school curriculum outside of ELA, with the exception, perhaps, of the third book. Having said that, from a curriculum perspective it would ‘work’ to leave out the 3rd book which does not provide any necessary information to Lina and Doon’s story line. Except for a short (no more than 1 paragraph) reference at the end of book 4, book 3 can be removed from the lineup allowing for a cohesive story line surrounding Lina and Doon that also pairs spectacularly well with other curriculum areas. (And since I am a curriculum nerd, I love a good pairing! Some look for a fine wine to pair with a lovely meal, I look for a fantastic read to pair with a unit of amazing learning).
In The Diamond of Darkhold, Lina and Doon discover a secret during their journey back to the city of Ember, one that could change their entire way of life. The builders left behind one final gift, technology to harness the power of the sun. This provides an excellent opportunity to encourage students to study alternative energy sources (solar, wind, water). The NGSS for middle school outlines standards for students to learn about alternative energy sources, most of which is concentrated in the 8th grade. This is a perfect opportunity to link literature to a study on solar power. Consider having students design solar powered cars or researching other areas such as wind and water power.
For a cohesive middle school curriculum program that links ELA and science through all three grades, consider reading one book each year. Book 1, The City of Ember, can be read in 6th grade along side a unit about the Earth and Geology. Book 2, The People of Sparks, can be read in 7th grade along side a unit about the biology of plants, and Book 4, The Diamond of Darkhold, can be read in 8th grade along side a unit about natural energy sources. Pairing literature with science… does it get any better?