Last week, Yeshiva Ketana of Queens’ sixth grade had the privilege of welcoming The City of Ember author Jeanne DuPrau into their Zoom classroom. She had originally planned to stay for a 15-minute question-and-answer session, but she ended up staying twice as long because of what she called the “super good” questions coming from the students. Among those questions were at least two questions she said she had never been asked before, and another question about a mistake both she and her editor never realized existed!

Before her visit, the students had been learning about potential symbolism within the book, and when Mr. Keane, their ELA teacher, said that there was no way to know if the symbolism was intentional without asking the author, some of the students asked if there was any way they could ask her. So, Mr. Keane looked for and found contact information for the author and sent her an email asking for her to visit the class. Within a few hours, Ms. DuPrau had responded and a meeting was set up for a few weeks later!

Mr. Keane asked his students to come up with a list of questions for Ms. DuPrau, and they came up with almost 40 different and wide-ranging questions which Mr. Keane and General Studies Principal Mrs. Grossman had to narrow down to fit into the small window they had with Ms. DuPrau.

The question-and-answer session went off without a hitch; students asked their questions, and Ms. DuPrau was kind, thoughtful, and entertaining with her responses. It turns out that only some of the symbolism the sixth grade had been learning about was intentional, and an even smaller amount of it was interpreted correctly (much to Mr. Keane’s chagrin). Feedback from students and administrators on the session was very positive, with students asking for her to come back next year and answer even more questions.