Wednesday, January 12, 2011

THE EMERALD ATLAS by John Stephens

Author: John Stephens
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: April 5, 2011
Number of Pages: 432
How I Got It: Free ARC offer from Random House

Things I loved about THE EMERALD ATLAS:

1. The classic fantasy structure to the story and a plot that sets up the beginning of the series nicely. The story is centered around kids who have never known or felt wanted, and can't remember what happened to their parents, but still hold out hope that they will find them again someday. It starts with a shadowy night time extraction of these children to protect them from a terrible power, and then leads into time-traveling secrets, an entertaining villain, a savior, and a hidden treasure (the lost book of time) that needs to be found, all leading to an ancient prophesy that will determine the fate of the world and these children. Along the way they discover more of their history and the history of the magical world.

2. The characters! I loved meeting orphans Kate, Michael, and Emma and discovering more about their sibling relationships. They were so true-to-life as siblings who loved and hated each other based on what was happening at the moment, but when it came down to it would do anything they could to find and help each other out of any jam and save each other. Each had their own distinct personalities and quirks, but they fit together so nicely and ended up really supporting each other through their ordeal. I also loved their (for lack of a better word) sidekick who at first seemed scary, but ultimately was able to help them through his people's ancient ways and beliefs. And who could forget the dwarfs?! I think they may have been my favorite aspect of the book.

3. The heart-warming story. The basis for the story in this first book is about saving a town that has been ruined by a magic sorceress who was using the townspeople to dig for the book she is determined to find. In the process, the children of the town were drowned. As our main characters go back in time to before this happened, they not only try to find the book, but also are trying to save the children of this town.

4. The humor integrated into the interactions between the siblings, the others, the fantasy characters, and even the villian. There were definitely chuckle to yourself parts and lines in this story.

5. The audience appropriateness and appeal! I'm thrilled that this is a middle grades book as I think that it is easily accessible for those readers who are not quite at the level of reading the Lord of the Rings series or have loved The Chronicles of Narnia, and still want to enjoy a great fantasy read. It also will strongly appeal to boys and will be perfect for my eighth graders (and I think all ages)! 

6. And finally, the background of the author, John Stephens. He was a producer and writer for some of my favorite TV shows (The O.C. and Gilmore Girls) and was an executive producer for Gossip Girl as well. This is his first book.

The only thing that bothered me was that the beginning of the story felt a little slow, but once they really got into it and things started moving, I was hooked and couldn't put the book down. I highly recommend this great fantasy read (and have now had an eighth grade boy back me up on this).

I will definitely read the rest of the books in the series when they come out!

Book 1 of 12 for DAC2011

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