Friday, January 13, 2017

Apothecary by Maile Meloy

Here is a puzzle.  How are the following things connected with this book The Apothecary?

Here is the answer :

  • The School Library Journal reviewer Elizabeth Bird began her review by saying she loved the cover of The Apothecary.  This made me curious.  I really like the cover too.
  • Ian Schoenherr is the cover designer of The Apothecary so I read about him and discovered :
  • Ian Schoenherr is the son of John Schoenherr and :
  • John Schoenherr is the award winning illustrator of one of my most favourite picture books of all time Owl Moon.
  • Then I investigated the author Maile Meloy and discovered :
  • Maile Meloy is the sister of Colin Meloy author of Wildwood which I had already read and reviewed

Sometimes the world of children's books can feel like one big family.

Janie lives in California.  The year is 1952.  It is the McCarthy era and the cold war has begun. Benjamin lives in London.  His neighbourhood has been bombed during World War II and while he and his dad do survive his mum is killed. Mr Burrows, Benjamin's dad (the apothecary) explains :

"Your mum had nursing skills and worked for the Women's Voluntary Service. She was out after the air raid was over, helping to see who was hurt, when the bomb suddenly went off ... she was killed instantly."

Benjamin and Janie meet when Janie's family move to London to get away from appearing before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Benjamin does not want to follow his father and work in a pharmacy or Apothecary.  He would much rather be a spy but what he does not know is that he has been spying on men connected with is own father and his father is involved with trying to save the world from the atom bombs which are being developed by Russia and USA. Yes this is all quite huge.  Janie, Benjamin and another friend named Pip are now on a mission to save the world especially as Benjamin's father appears to have disappeared and the children stumble upon a murder and it seems their Latin teacher is really a Russian spy.  Added to all this is the alchemy.  As he is about to be captured his dad gives Benjamin an ancient book - the Pharmocopoeia.  It contains the formula for potions to turn into a bird, make people invisible, force others to tell the truth and wipe memory.

As you can see this book is a combination of history and magic.  Not quite Science Fiction but almost.  The final scenes are quite thrilling and open the way for the sequels.

I do highly recommend The Apothecary and I would follow this up with The Seven Professors of the far North.  Another book you will enjoy is Disappearing act.  If you want to read more about alchemy take a look at The Book without Words.

The Apothecary is the first of this trilogy as I mentioned so we now need to add the other two titles to our school library.  I have listed this book for Senior Primary but I also think it would appeal to a junior high school reader.  Teaching notes, an extract and authors details can be found on the publisher site. Here are some reviews :

New York Times
Kids Reads

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