The Emerald Atlas (The Books of Beginning, book 1)
By John Stephens, read by Jim Dale
Published 2011 by Listening Library
Kate, Michael, and Emma have lived a sad life for the last ten years - shuttled from one orphanage to another, never quite fitting in or feeling wanted. Kate, being the eldest, is the only one who can even vaguely remember their parents but she knows her mother said they'd be together again someday. But the siblings are more special than they know - and in more danger than they could imagine.
This book had gotten tons of buzz when it was first released but, of course, I didn't have the time to pick it up. I grabbed it recently because it's one of the Lone Star Reading List books and I saw the audio version was available for download. I wasn't paying much attention when I downloaded so I was pleasantly surprised (actually, thrilled) when I started listening and realized this was narrated by Jim Dale. YAY! I mean, you know who Jim Dale is, right? He brings the same charm and personality to this book as he did to his narration of the Harry Potter series and helped me fall just a bit more in love with this book than I might have otherwise.
But, brilliant though he is, Jim Dale is not the only reason to love this book. This is a perfect read for fantasy fans - it is exciting and adventurous, action-packed and full of heart. The characters - they are the best thing about this book. I just wanted to reach out and give them all hugs - even occasionally obnoxious Emma. I thought each sibling was uniquely crafted and had a distinct personality. I loved them all equally. Stephens has also done a fantastic job of creating a believable sibling relationship among the three and exploring all the emotions and hardships that such a relationship is fraught with. There is a lot going on in the world Stephens has created in this novel and I sometimes get lost when I listen instead of read. It is a credit to his skill as a writer that I was continually able to know what was going on the entire time I listened to the book. The pacing of the novel is incredibly well-done, too, as I constantly wanted to know what would happen next. Stephens kept me in suspense throughout the entire book and I think this will be a big hit with kids. I am not surprised to see it as one of the Lone Star Reading List titles for this year. I will definitely be picking up the next book and seeing where Stephens goes from here.
As a final note, I will listen to anything Jim Dale wants to read.