One Christmas Eve, Kate is shaken awake by her mother. Kate, the oldest of three children, is implored by her mother to look after the younger two, Michael and Emma. The three children are spirited away in the middle of the night to keep them safe. For the next ten years, these siblings will find themselves shuffled from foster home to foster home, until one disastrous meeting with a potential adoptive parent lands them in the “orphanage” of Dr. Stanislaus Pym. It is a strange sort of orphanage, made so because of the enigmatic owner of the house, Dr. Pym, the old caretaker, Abraham, and the housekeeper who insists on speaking to the children in address of royalty, Miss Sallow. Oh, and the fact that Kate, Michael, and Emma are the only children in the orphanage.
Upon their first investigation of the house, the children find a book bound in green leather. Purely by accident, they stick a picture in the book and are transported back in time. It is here they meet the Countess, an evil witch in search of the book that the children themselves have found. When they try to get back to their time, Michael is left behind. The girls then return to find Michael, sending them on the adventure of a lifetime. The children seems to be on one adventure after another trying to right the wrongs of the past.
When I first started this book, I was not sure if I would finish it. The Emerald Atlas contains characters reminiscent of Harry Potter’s Albus Dumbledore and Rubius Hagrid, a story line about children entering another time (world) in order to save it as in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and a seemingly never-ending abundance of dismal situations a la A Series of Unfortunate Events. I was concerned that John Stephens would not find his own voice.
I am glad I kept reading. While the aforementioned nods to other great children’s literature do exist, Stephens begins to weave his own tale. The characters are ones for whom you can champion. I am a major fan of books that incorporate strong female characters, and Stephens does this twice with both Kate and Emma. He also manages to do so while keeping in consideration the fact that they are still children.
As with any book, I rate it based on its repeat readability (yep, making up words now). Stephens gets a solid yes. Stephens’ novel is great for young readers, rich in folklore and vivid imagery. I am looking forward to the next two books in this trilogy, even knowing I will have to wait quite some time (as Atlas is not slated for release until April 2011).
Robin Gwaro is a founding book review blogger at Bookgateway.com and has generously supplied this review. She describes herself as “a woman just trying to keep it all together. Most days, I have the juggling act down! Others, I have the broom and dustpan handy to clean up the mess. My life is not always easy, it is not always neat, but it is always worth every minute!” Her personal blog is Just Wandering. Not Lost..
This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.
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