THE EMERALD ATLAS by John Stephens (Knopf 2011) received an awful lot of pre-publication hype. I am pleased to say that the book does indeed live up to the hype. Kate and her brother Michael and sister Emma are whisked away from their parents in the middle of the night one Christmas to keep them safe. From what, Kate does not know. As the oldest, she has been instructed by her mother to take care of her siblings. And so begins a round of orphanages and temporary homes where the three are perfectly miserable. Now, they are sent to live with Dr. Pym in Cambridge Falls, a town full of sorrow and misery. There, the three discover a mysterious book that seems to transport them through time via photographs inserted into its pages. Unfortunately for the trio, an evil witch is also hunting for this magical book as is a rather mean-spirited dwarf. Kate and Emma and Michael must battle all manner of creatures and dangers to keep the book in their possession. <220>
Archetypes and tropes set this book apart from others that might feature time travel or magical beings or evil creatures. Stephens' use of motifs is particularly adept. What I appreciated the most as a reader was the sly humor that erupts when least expected. Pym is the older/wiser archetype, but he is not without his idiosyncrasies. Ditto his housekeeper. And top all of this off with an audiobook version featuring verbal gymnast Jim Dale, and you will quickly realize why your students will fall in love with The Emerald Atlas and its band of adventurers.
Volume 2, please. (Yes, this is a projected trilogy)