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Keeper of the Lost Cities



Super-imaginative adventures of girl whisked to elf world.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Set in an alternate, magical world, Keeper of the Lost Cities the story is more imaginative than educational, but school is a big part of Sophie's experience in the human and elf worlds, and her new life brings new anxiety over classes and exams that will determine her future.

Positive messages

Loving, complex family relationships, loyalty among friends, and courage in the face of danger are all core values here. Another important point is kindness to animals, as Sophie's elf foster parents care for the inhabitants of a wildlife preserve, and Sophie develops a telepathic connection with them.

Positive role models

Sophie is an appealing heroine who's often unsure of the right thing to do and who doesn't always reach the right decision, but she has a strong conscience and a strong love for the important people in her life. Her friends, including three very different boys, all have believable strengths and moments of falling short, and they all stand by her in challenging situations. Adult characters are often conflicted; some seem villainous, while others struggle to protect Sophie and do the right thing for her.


Sinister forces are out to get Sophie, and there are a number of scary attacks and kidnap attempts, in which some characters are badly hurt.


In order to save her from forces trying to kill her, an embryonic elf child is implanted in a human woman, who eventually gives birth to her.

Not applicable

Sophie has a dream involving the Keebler Elves; her iPod is one of the few possessions she takes into the elf world, where her friend figures out a way to keep it charged on solar power.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Shannon Messenger's debut novel, Keeper of the Lost Cities, is imaginative, well-crafted, and engaging, with a strong girl protagonist and plenty of interesting supporting characters. From the beginning, 12-year-old Sophie is in danger from forces threatened by her existence, and only gradually becomes aware of them in scary incidents, including multiple kidnapping attempts. In addition, she's traumatized by being torn from the human family that raised her and transported to the elf world to start a completely different life, and this is portrayed so effectively that it may be too emotionally intense for some young readers. With those caveats, the book has much to offer in the way of imaginative issues and plot twists, not to mention credible, appealing role models showing loyalty, friendship, and courage.

What's the story?

Twelve-year-old Sophie has been telepathic since she was 5, and it's brought her nothing but trouble, from perennial migraines to the social difficulties of being a prodigy in school. She's kept her talent to herself, as her lovably ordinary family would not understand it. Then one day on a field trip to the museum, she meets a strikingly good-looking boy who's also a telepath -- and informs her that she's actually not human, she's an elf who's been hidden in the human world. Soon she's whisked away forever from her family and transported to the elf world, where she must cope with hazards from would-be abductors to the pitfalls of middle school, all while trying to fit in and understand who she is.

Is it any good?


The first in a new series by Shannon Messenger, this book is imaginative, well-conceived and well-written, with believable, complex characters and a fully realized fantasy world parallel to our own. Friendship, family bonds, and trying to do the right thing in difficult circumstances all come to the fore as Sophie and her friends try to figure out the mystery of her origin and face unexpected dangers. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Sophie being forced to leave her family forever without saying good-bye. If you were in her situation, would you do the same thing?

  • What other books have you read or movies you've seen feature elves?  Why do you think elf stories are popular?

  • If it turned out that you weren't human and actually belonged in another world entirely, what would that world be like?

Book details

Author:Shannon Messenger
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Superheroes, Adventures, Fairy tales, Friendship, Great girl role models
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:October 2, 2012
Number of pages:496
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Available on:Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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Kid, 7 years old January 4, 2014

the best book ever

Sophie Foster is in the wrong place ~in the Forbidden Cities! Also known as our wold. One day she was at the museum on a field trip. She meets a boy who is just like her. His name is Fitz. He takes her to the world were he lives and were she belongs. Now she has to say good-bye to her family ~forever!
What other families should know
Great role models
Teen, 13 years old Written byWolf_Girl December 20, 2014

Loved it

I thought this book was the best. It was interesting and fast paced. It kept me interested through out the book. Sophie was a great character and I hope that there are more books with her and her friends. I liked how Sophie rose above the kids who bullied her and stood up for her self.
What other families should know
Great messages
Kid, 12 years old August 3, 2014

I loved it

I picked this book up because I've read every book that is ok for my age. Well I finished it in a day. I loved it. Sophie is a great character. I loved the idea of another world like ours.


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