Books for Younguns, Young Adults and the Young-at-Heart

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Emerald Atlas

Kate, Michael and Emma know they aren't orphans because their parents died, but because something is preventing them from coming to get them.  They've bounced from one orphanage to another until finally landing in the strangest one yet.  They are the only kids in a giant house in the middle of a dismal village.  Their explorations lead them to a book in the basement that seems normal...until it transports them to the location of a photograph stuck between the pages.  Soon the siblings find themselves transported into the village's past where they just might be able to change the events that lead to its downfall.

The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens is the first book of the eventual Books of Beginning trilogy.  It's also my current staff pick at Left Bank Books.

The most immediate comparisons this book will draw are with other normal-children-discover-magic books like Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia; the Ps (no last name, just an initial) have stumbled into a parallel world with a complex history and mythology they must learn on the fly.  Of course, they also happen to be the only ones who can save it, so their amazement at their surroundings is always cut short by the urgent need to act.  Here, however, is a surefire sure for readers who complain that boys have all the fun in this genre.  Each sibling has his or her own distinct personality and interests, each of which is allowed to shine when they are separated for a hefty chunk of the narrative.  The plot is extremely intricate and involved.  Any one of the obstacles faced by the children could have served as its own book if Stephens had preferred.  Instead, there is non-stop action, sometimes in multiple locations simultaneously.  While there is no gratuitously graphic violence, things can get scary.  I know I found myself horrified (in a good way) more than once.  Adventure and fantasy fans are sure to love this book.  Now, to wait for Book Two!

The Emerald Atlas is published by Knopf Books for Young Readers and retails for $17.99.  I got my Advance Reader Copy from the publisher (although this review was neither solicited nor compensated).  You can get yours from Left Bank Books today!

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