An enchanted world, a powerful book, and three children of destiny: “E” is for The Emerald Atlas: The Book of Beginnings (2011) by John Stephens #AtoZchallengeThe Emerald Atlas by John Stephens
Published by Random House Children's Books on April 5th 2011
Genres: Action & Adventure, Family, Fantasy, Middle Grade, Siblings
Pages: 432

Called “A new Narnia for the tween set” by the New York Times and perfect for fans of the His Dark Materials series, The Emerald Atlas brims with humor and action as it charts Kate, Michael, and Emma's extraordinary adventures through an unforgettable, enchanted world. These three siblings have been in one orphanage after another for the last ten years, passed along like lost baggage. Yet these unwanted children are more remarkable than they could possibly imagine. Ripped from their parents as babies, they are being protected from a horrible evil of devastating power, an evil they know nothing about. Until now. Before long, Kate, Michael, and Emma are on a journey through time to dangerous and secret corners of the world...a journey of allies and enemies, of magic and mayhem.  And—if an ancient prophesy is correct—what they do can change history, and it is up to them to set things right.From the Hardcover edition.

The Book: An enchanted world filled with monsters, dwarves, and evil countesses. A book of power called The Emerald Atlas. Time travel. All these elements make up this story featuring three orphans, Kate, Michael, and Emma. Three special children who have moved from one orphanage to the next since they were very young, the trio are convinced their parents are alive somewhere and will eventually return for them. However, upon the discovery of an enchanted book, the three find themselves transported back in time, and race to save an entire town from the evils of a countess who will stop at nothing to find one of the “books of beginning.” During their journey, Kate, the eldest of the children slowly begins to realize that she and her siblings may have a far greater purpose and destiny than she had ever imagined.

Spirituality in The Emerald Atlas: The relationships among the siblings represents one spiritual aspect of the story that I appreciated. I think that Stephens portrayed the significance of the bond between brother and sisters very well, and I don’t always read stories where I am especially moved by the strength of the family connection. Kate’s strong sense of justice and wanting to make things right was another dimension of the story that resonated with me, as well as the way she has a glimpse of her mother at one point in the book. The interaction between the two is an amazing moment, and I appreciated the way Stephens portrayed Kate as working through issues of abandonment that she surely must have felt.

Who Should Read This Book: If you enjoy fantasy stories like Narnia or Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, you must read this book. I enjoy both C.S. Lewis & Philip Pullman’s work, and I was sucked into the world Stephens created. The story is filled with twists and turns and some recognizable aspects of a fantasy story, but the novel retains a uniqueness that kept it refreshing and exciting. There are moments to laugh and to cry. I haven’t read the second book yet, but I have hopes that it will be as interesting as the first.

The Final Word: I had been planning to read this book for over a year and I am so glad I picked up the audio book first, and then checked out the book from the library. It’s a delightful read and a fantasy you can really get lost in. I will definitely be recommending this book to young readers who love an exciting fantasy with an ending that leaves you wanting more. The characters are memorable—especially the dwarf, Hamish. Enjoy The Emerald Atlas!

What Katie Read