Title: The Emerald Atlas: Book I of the Books of Beginning
Author: John Stephens
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Releases: April 5, 2011
When I first heard of The Emerald Atlas, I read that it was the start to a “generation-defining” series, and even read a comparison to the Harry Potter series. The simplest summary, featured in many of the marketing ads is just this: “the story of three children who set out to save their family and end up having to save the world.”
The tale begins as many children’s adventure stories do: sadly. In this case, three small children are whisked away from their parents on Christmas Eve night. The oldest, four-year old Kate, remembers her mother promising an eventual reunion. Ten years pass and the siblings are still being passed from one orphanage to another. They have no idea where their parents are, why they’ve been abandoned, or even their last name (they were left at the first orphanage with the surname P).
Strange things begin to happen to the trio almost immediately after the mysterious Dr. Pym agrees to take them into his dark, dreary orphanage. Kate, now fourteen and ever protective of her younger siblings, is suspicious when she learns that they are the only orphans in the so-called orphanage. Together with twelve-year old Michael and eleven-year old Emma, Kate finds herself drawn magically through time to the orphanage and surrounding village as they were years ago: bustling with dwarves, monsters, and an evil queen in search of a very special book.
The Emerald Atlas is a whirlwind adventure with all the makings of a classic: heroic young characters, children facing their fears, magic, and enchantment. The characters are wonderfully portrayed: Kate is the overburdened eldest sister who considers it her duty to watch out for her younger siblings; Michael, ever the studious one, is determined to document everything that crosses their paths; Emma, perhaps one of the feistiest characters in children’s literature, proves to be brave and courageous beyond her years.
The greatest over-arching theme of the book is that of family. The children are determined that not only will they reunite with their parents one day, but that they will not be separated in the meantime. Time and again they risk their lives for one another without hesitation. The bond between them is unshakeable and absolutely inspiring.
This book is absolutely enchanting in every way. Perfect for children, even suitable to read aloud to younger ones, and imaginative enough to capture the attention of older children and adults.--Kyla Paterno