Want personalized picks that fit your family?
Set preferences to see our top age-appropriate picks for your kids.
The Emerald Atlas: The Books of Beginning, Book 1
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know this fantasy novel is the first of a planned series of three. It does have a great deal of fantasy violence, and the three protagonists are endangered by various monsters and other nasty, evil characters, including a powerful witchy countess. There is some gore and graphic depictions, though after a few close battles, good triumphs over evil. Younger readers may find the book a bit too intense, and be confused by the time-travelling sequences. Kids who can handle it will find a lot to like in the three protagonists, loyal siblings who grapple with important questions of loyalty, honesty, hard choices, and, of course, good and evil.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Swept away to an orphanage at an early age, three siblings -- Kate, Michael, and Emma -- move from one dismal institution to next, each one worse than the one before. Kate, the eldest, remembers promising her mother to protect the younger two: misfit Michael, a bookworm fascinated by magic, photography, and dwarfs, and feisty Emma, who lacks patience for anyone. When they discover the Emerald Atlas, one of three magical books, they begin to time travel, searching for their parents in a fantastical world that involves wizardry, a wicked countess with magical powers, dwarfs, monsters, and just about anything else you can imagine. Together, they begin to learn why they were put in such distasteful and dangerous institutions in the first place -- and have an adventure that forces them to grow up, depend on each other, and make choices that change history.
Is it any good?
Kids ready to delve into time-travelling fantasy will love this fun, fast-paced book. Intriguing and suspenseful, the story is packed with strong characters, sophisticated language, and adventures that force the heroes to grapple with questions of loyalty, honesty, hard choices and, of course, good and evil. Here, author John Stephens uses some familiar fantasy elements -- innocent orphans, an evil witch, a struggle over three valuable books of wisdom -- to pull together a creative story that will have kids breathlessly waiting for the next installment. Younger readers may be confused by the time-travelling sequences, and the violence may be a little too much for them, but for kids who are mature enough, this is a thrilling ride.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about fantasy books. Why are series like this one so popular right now? What does this book have in common with other fantasy novels you've read? How is it different?
What did you think about the cruelty and violence of the evil characters in this book? Or the ferocious battles? Does the fantasy setting make the violence any less intense to read about?
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
For kids who love fantasy
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.