Great Illustrated Books

The Emerald Atlas (The Books of Beginning series)

By John Stephens

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2011
Pages : 432
Suggested Ages: 8-12
ISBN: 9780375868702

“Remember your father and I love you very much. And we will all be together again. I promise.”

Although only four-years-old at the time, Kate remembers the vow her mother made when she and her younger siblings were hurriedly, inexplicably sent away a decade ago. Since then, Kate, Michael, and Emma have been shifted from one orphanage to another. After being moved to Dr. Pym’s creepy, remote orphanage in Cambridge Falls, a place where Kate senses great danger, their hopes that their parents will find them are running thin. They suspect Dr. Pym is a wizard and as they explore the decaying building and the desolate town – where are all the children? – they discover a green leather-bound book which transports them to an earlier time in which a beautiful but cruel Countess rules. She is seeking the Atlas of Time, one of three magic books from ancient times, and is destroying the town and its people in the process. When the trio arrives from the future with the Atlas in hand, the Countess will stop at nothing to get it. She kidnaps Michael and uses him as bait, exposing cracks in the siblings’ relationship. In page-turning action, the children confront Screechers, wolves, witchery, and their own self-doubts. Family loyalty is reaffirmed and, with the aid of magic folk, an army of dwarves and Dr. Pym, the children race against time to reverse the fatal course set by the Countess.

The rich cast of characters and fearsome creatures are vividly-drawn and the dialogue always rings true, right down to the siblings’ taunts and tears. Throughout, sensible Kate keeps them focused on their goal to reunite their family; dreamy Michael, with his knowledge of dwarves and magic, helps them navigate this new world; and feisty Emma demonstrates the courage they need to fight their battles. A prophecy concerning Kate, Michael, and Emma is revealed and, in a teaser ending, they learn their parents are being held by an evil power even greater than the Countess, thus leaving readers eager for the next round of adventures to be found in Book 2 of the Books of Beginnings Trilogy.


Visit to watch a book trailer, learn about the characters, and download an activity guide.

Reviewed by : JMcD


If you love this book, then try:

Buitendag, Louis L. The Bloomswell Diaries. Kane/Miller Book Publishers, 2011.

Collins, Suzanne. Gregor the Overlander (Underland Chronicles series). Scholastic Press, 2003.

Black, Holly and Tony DiTerlizzi. The Field Guide (The Spiderwick Chronicles series). Simon & Schuster, 2003.

DuPrau, Jeanne. The City of Ember (Books of Ember series). Random House, 2003.

Critics have said

"This fast-paced, fully imagined fantasy is by turns frightening and funny, and the siblings are well-crafted and empathetic heroes. Highly enjoyable, it should find many readers."
Publishers Weekly

"A rollicking fantasy filled with shiver-inspiring evil creatures and quiet heroes. The feisty sisters and the intellectual brother will win the hearts of readers of all ages."
Library Media Connection

" Fast-paced and engaging, with plenty of action, humor, and secrets propelling the plot. . . . Themes of family and responsibility . . . will easily resonate with young readers."