October 16, 2011

Friendship, Family, and Espionage

Summary (from Goodreads):

It's 1952 and the Scott family has just moved from Los Angeles to London. Here, fourteen-year-old Janie meets a mysterious apothecary and his son, Benjamin Burrows - a fascinating boy who's not afraid to stand up to authority and dreams of becoming a spy. When Benjamin's father is kidnapped, Janie and Benjamin must uncover the secrets of the apothecary's sacred book, the Pharmacopoeia, in order to find him, all while keeping it out of the hands of their enemies - Russian spies in possession of nuclear weapons. Discovering and testing potions they never believed could exist, Janie and Benjamin embark on a dangerous race to save the apothecary and prevent impending disaster.

Together with Ian Schoenherr's breathtaking illustrations, this is a truly stunning package from cover to cover. 

My thoughts: 

Loved every moment of this novel. The plot was inventive, and the reader was magnificent.

Fourteen-year-old Janie and her parents move from L.A. to London in 1952 to escape questions of communism. In London her parents will write for a new Robin Hood series, and Janie will continue being fourteen - just with a new school and new friends.

Instead, Janie becomes friends with Benjamin Burrows whose only dream in life is to become a spy. He has already picked out his first suspected Russian "spy" to watch, and soon Janie and Benjamin are caught up in more than either ever bargained for.

Benjamin's father is an apothecary and expects his son to follow in his footsteps, but Benjamin wants more out of life than selling hot water bottles. Little does he know who his father really is nor why following in his footsteps could lead him to his real future as a spy.

The heart of this story lies with the friendship formed between Janie and Benjamin. At first it seems that readers will follow Janie, but soon it becomes apparent that Benjamin is an equally important piece of this plot's puzzle.

The strength lies with the fast-moving plot. The author does not hold back, thrusting readers into an international tale of friendship, family, and espionage.

The character development is spot on with interesting twists and turns throughout. Even the novel's conclusion is tightly woven together and will leave readers satisfied. That was my one true fear: how would this end and leave me satisfied? Meloy accomplished just that, and The Apothecary is going to have a strong hold on childrens literature for years to come.

I did this as an audio, and the reader was fantastic. She enhanced my experience with the characters and with the plot, creating imagery that I would have been robbed had I read it in print. With that said, I have read the print version contains beautiful illustrations, and I plan to check them out to see if the illustrator captured on paper what I captured in my mind.

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