Alyce (At Home With Books)'s Reviews > The Emerald Atlas

The Emerald Atlas by John  Stephens
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's review
Mar 27, 2012

really liked it

The Emerald Atlas is the first book in the Books of Beginning Trilogy. The three siblings Kate, Michael and Emma have grown up in an orphanage – always expecting their parents to fulfill their promise to return. The kids are bounced from orphanage to orphanage, each one worse than the last. With their next transfer they are afraid of what horrid conditions they might find.

To be sure, their new orphanage is run down and very unusual in ways that they don’t yet know. It’s all very mysterious and becomes even stranger when one day when they least expect it they are magically transported elsewhere. I can’t say where or how they are transported without taking away from the excitement and mystery of the story, but suffice it to say that it is something that opens up endless possibilities.

This book has a lot going for it that will appeal to fans of children’s fantasy. It’s got magic, unusual creatures, hidden realms, secret prophecies and some very creepy evil villains. If I had to make comparisons I would say that it has elements similar to those found in The Lord of the Rings, the Narnia books, the Harry Potter books, and the Lemony Snicket books.

I was surprised at first at how what a quick and intense read it was for a children’s book. Most middle grade books don’t do a good job of holding my attention, and this one was definitely an exception. Full of action and adventure, in many instances it made me tense with anticipation of what was going to happen to the children.

The author pulls you into the new magical world that the children are discovering, and you get to see it through their eyes as they are seeing it for the first time. The mechanism by which the children are able to travel creates a lot of opportunities for further adventures in the later books (which I will definitely be reading).

The writing is appropriate for middle graders, but is not so basic that it can’t be enjoyed by older readers too. Some of the action is intense, but I think most middle graders will eat it up. I have already recommended it to my fourth grader.
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