Study Guide

Poppy in The City of Ember

By Jeanne DuPrau


We here at Shmoop love kitten pictures on the internet as much as anyone else does, but Poppy is in a category of cuteness all her own. She is so totes adorbs that we just wanna snatch her up and cuddle her to our hearts' content.

Too Cute for Her Own Good

Here's how we first meet Poppy: "Lina's little sister toddled out from behind the counter on unsteady legs. She had a round face and round brown eyes. At the top of her head was a sprig of brown hair tied up with a scrap of red yarn" (2.21). Yep, on a cuteness scale, that description is off the charts.

As we see more of Poppy, we realize that she acts a lot like a toddler would in any situation, which makes her a refreshing change from the downtrodden and dull adults of Ember. Poppy is irrepressibly alive: "Poppy had learned to ride piggyback—she wrapped her legs around Lina's waist and gripped Lina's throat with her small, strong fingers" (5.12). Sure, she may be living in a post-apocalyptic underground city that's slowly running out of supplies, but hey, kids will be kids, right?

Li'l Miss Troublemaker

She may be only two years old, but Poppy sure has an independent streak—and it gets her into trouble a time or two. When Lina puts her down on a shopping trip, Poppy takes off on her own. Luckily, Doon finds her "marching up the street by herself" (5.70). Talk about a determined kid.

Leaving Poppy unsupervised seems to be asking for trouble. And yet it keeps happening. There are consequences, too, like when Lina comes home to find Poppy sitting next to the mysterious-looking (and now open) box: "But Poppy only chortled happily. She was chewing on some crumpled paper. She had paper in her hands, too, and was tearing it. Shreds of paper were strewn around her" (6.53). Sure, we can't blame a two-year-old for chewing paper, but couldn't she have chosen the takeout menus on the fridge?

Sometimes Poppy's tendency to get into trouble is helpful, though. After Lina and Doon take a river-ride with Poppy, they set her on the shore while they explore. Then they realize that she's grabbed onto something: "In Poppy's hands was something dark and rectangular. It wasn't a stone. It was more like a packet of some kind. She was plucking and pulling at it. She lifted it to her mouth as if to tear it with her teeth" (18.39). It turns out to be a journal, written by one of the original citizens of Ember. The kids would never had found it if Poppy hadn't wanted to use it as a chew toy, and now they've got yet another key to understanding their history.