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A Book We Love is Finally Here!

April 5, 2011

 We’ve raved about it before, and shared many wonderful reviews from independent booksellers. Now it’s finally available! The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens is one of our favorite middle grade novels of the year, the first in a fantasy/adventure trilogy that The Bookseller is calling “a magical roller-coaster of a read,” and The Horn Book Magazine says is “a complex fantastical world akin to the Harry Potter and Narnia books.” Here are a few more fantastic reviews we just received:

I gobbled up the galley of John Stephens’s The Emerald Atlas in a day and a half, reading it when I was supposed to be doing other things, which I don’t usually do. But this novel captured me with its nonstop action and brave young characters you really care about. The book reminds me of The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, and has an extremely satisfying ending that leaves you hoping for a sequel. Kids will really love this and I look forward to handselling it.

– Heather Lyon, Lyon Books and Learning Center, Chico, California

 The Wall Street Journal agrees:

Badly treated orphans, a prophecy, witches, wizards and magical creatures: These tropes of children’s fantasy fiction would seem to have little capacity still to thrill or delight, if only because of the frequency with which they appear in print. But a great story is all in the telling, and in “The Emerald Atlas” the telling is superb.

First-time novelist John Stephens has created a vicarious adventure for children ages 9-15—the first in a trilogy—filled with unexpected twists and marvelously distinct and vivid characters. Of the three children at the center of the story—Kate, Emma and Michael—only Kate, the eldest, has any memory of a time before they lived as unwanted itinerants, shuttled from one miserable orphanage to the next. Kate vaguely remembers waking one snowy night, seeing the silhouette of a strange man in the doorway and being begged by her tearful mother to promise that she’ll take care of her brother and sister—but nothing more.

With exceptional skill, Mr. Stephens weaves the resulting pathos into the children’s characters and into their sibling relationships. Life has made the children brave, quick-witted and self-reliant, but their parentless hearts are hungry, and that longing shapes their actions. 

Soon after we meet the siblings, they’re shunted onward yet again, this time to a vast and ominous stone house on the edge of a blighted village called Cambridge Falls. They find themselves the sole inmates, with only the company of a lame handyman and a querulous cook, who constantly (and, for the reader, comically) berates the bewildered children for putting on aristocratic airs.

 Exploring the house, the three discover a curious room—behind a door that Michael could have sworn wasn’t there a moment ago—filled with mysterious objects that include an ancient blank book bound in green leather. This is the Emerald Atlas, “an ocean of power” that suddenly sweeps the children back in time to Cambridge Falls in the grip of a remorseless witch (who, against type, looks like a teenage coquette and sprinkles her repartee with French phrases). Before long, the children have embarked on a quest that will take them back and forth through time, into a dwarf kingdom ruled by a drunken usurper, in and out of battle with monstrous creatures, and—most stirring of all—yield a glimpse of their long-lost mother.

-Meghan Cox Gurdon, Wall Street Journal

And finally, a rave review from a young reader at Boulder Bookstore in Colorado:

After ten years of moving from orphanage to orphanage, Kate, Michael, and Emma are losing hope that their parents will ever come back to get them.  Then, the children find the magical Emerald Atlas.  Full of adventure, magic, humor and action, this is one of the best books I’ve ever read.  I can’t wait for the sequel!

– Alex, age 13

Be sure to check out the Emerald Atlas website for more on the book, the characters, special games and book trailers, as well as information on John’s 10 city tour. He might be coming to a city near you!

John recently traveled to the Bologna Book Fair; don’t miss his hilarious recap of travel, food and literary agents here.

Finally, we would love to share this book with a few special readers. We have one signed copy of the book and one copy of the amazing audiobook (read by Jim Dale, reader of the acclaimed Harry Potter audiobooks!) to give away. Please leave a comment below to be entered to win, US residents only. We will draw names on Friday.


18 Comments leave one →
  1. April 5, 2011 8:13 am

    Thank you, Random Acts of Reading, for your informative and fun blog! I’ve just recently discovered you, and I look forward to reading and sharing your posts with my other reading and writing friends. Thanks for your review of this book—I can’t wait to dig in!

  2. Carol Moyer permalink
    April 5, 2011 9:30 am

    Mid-grade readers won’t want to leave this exciting world, and will be lining up for the sequel!

  3. Loretta Metkus permalink
    April 5, 2011 9:49 am

    Thanks for the review. I’m always looking for great books for my daughter to read. I find your website extremely helpful in that regard.

  4. annemarie permalink
    April 5, 2011 10:04 am

    I am so excited to read this book with my kids. We are headed to Disney World and this book will be perfect for on the plane and when we’re cuddled up in bed before we got to sleep! Thank you John for writing it!

  5. Heather permalink
    April 5, 2011 10:07 am

    This book sounds good! Can’t wait to read it!

  6. April 5, 2011 10:52 am

    I was lucky enough to already read this–super good! (Here’s my review). Would love the audio for those long road trips this summer!

  7. April 5, 2011 11:52 am

    This book sounds fantastic!

  8. Mandy permalink
    April 5, 2011 12:05 pm

    So cool to see Alex’s quote up there! We’re putting it on our Recommended Shelf as soon as it arrives. 🙂

  9. April 5, 2011 12:22 pm

    Long time follower of this blog – and I’d LOVE to win this book and help spread the word! Thank you so much!

  10. Angela K Sherrill permalink
    April 5, 2011 1:11 pm

    My favorite middle grade adventure book of the year is finally here! Yay!

  11. April 5, 2011 3:39 pm

    Thanks for posting the reviews, the book sounds wonderful. Please enter me in the giveaway. Thanks!

  12. April 5, 2011 3:50 pm

    Thanks for the giveaway! I’ve heard great things about this book and would love to get to read it.

  13. Angelene Hanna permalink
    April 5, 2011 4:25 pm

    I would love a copy of this for my middle school classroom.

  14. April 5, 2011 5:02 pm

    We’d love to win a copy for our library! Thanks for the contest.

  15. Judy permalink
    April 6, 2011 6:55 am

    To heck with wanting this for the children, I’d love it for myself! Of course I would share it with them too but only after I’d read it. 🙂

  16. April 7, 2011 1:52 pm

    Your review certainly made me want to read this book. It’s exciting to hear that a new fantasy is out, and by a new author. Looking forward to the book!

  17. annemarie permalink
    April 7, 2011 3:02 pm

    I just bought the book and can’t put it down!!! It’s an awesome read. I think I’ll be using it in the writing for children courses I teach at Stanford and UC Berkeley. Thank for this blog and for sharing it with us.


  1. Emerald Atlas Giveaway Winners! « Random Acts of Reading

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