Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Emerald Atlas

The Emerald Atlas

John Stephens
Fiction  Series
For ages 9 to 12
Random House, 2011   ISBN: 978-0375868702

Ten years ago Kate, Michael, and Emma were separated from their parents and placed in an orphanage. Not having definite proof that their parents are dead, the children refuse to accept that they are orphans. Instead, they cling to the hope that one day their parents will turn up to reclaim them. Though she cannot remember much about her parents, Kate does remember that her mother told her to take care of Michael and Emma, and though she was only four when her mother gave her this charge, Kate has steadfastly done her best to care for and defend her younger brother and sister.

Over the years, the children have been sent to twelve different orphanages, each one being worse than the last. The three children do not want to be adopted if they cannot be adopted together, and they refuse to accept the fact that they are orphans, exasperating the adults that they have encountered. Now they are being sent to an orphanage in some distant place called Cambridge Falls which is near the town of Westport, on the shores of Lake Champlain.

When they get to Cambridge Falls it soon becomes clear that all is not well in the town. There are very few people, no children, and the place has a lost and lonely feelĀ  about it. Their new home is in a large old stone house, and they are the only children there.

On their first day, the children explore the house and discover that there is a room in the basement full of strange things, including a blank book that has a green cover. Without thinking too much about it, Michael puts an old photo he was given onto one of the blank pages of the book. The photo shows a scene in Cambridge Falls, and it was taken fifteen years ago. The moment the photo touches the page, very strange things start to happen.

Kate, Michael and Emma are somehow transported back in time fifteen years. They are still in Cambridge Falls, but at this point in time the place is under the power of a terrible witch. The witch has taken the children of Cambridge Falls hostage so that she can force their fathers to search the mountains for something that she wants. She uses horrible creatures called Screechers to keep the people of Cambridge Falls under her control, and to force them to do her bidding.

It soon becomes apparent to Kate, Michael, and Emma that the witch is seeking the book that they found in the basement of their new home. It also becomes clear that they cannot let the woman get her hands on the book. They are not sure of much at this point, but they are sure that if she does get the book, something truly terrible will happen.

Full of fascinating characters, thrilling adventures and a fascinating world, this is the first book in what promises to be a magical and captivating series. Young readers (and not so young readers) will be eager to find out what happens next.