Books for Younguns, Young Adults and the Young-at-Heart

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Apothecary

It's 1952, and when Janie's parents love her from Hollywood to London to escape McCarthyism, she thinks her life has taken a turn for the boring and dreary.  That is, until the son of the apothecary down the road befriends her.  Soon they're in search of the mysterious Germans who have kidnapped the apothecary after he entrusts them with a book full of potions that show he wasn't just a chemist, but a magician of sorts.  Soon it seems the stakes might be even higher than the apothecary's life and work...

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy with illustrations by Ian Schoenherr is an Indie Bestseller.  It's also Left Bank Books' holiday pick for Best Book for Girls 8-12.

This is some highly engaging writing.  The story is told by a grown-up version of Janie, a la To Kill a Mockingbird, but her adolescent sensibilities are maintained as she juggles life-threatening situations, learning that magic is real, her first love and what to tell her parents about where she was all night.  She is an admirable heroine amid a cast of well-developed characters.  The action is non-stop, filled with things that aren't as they seem and situations you can't imagine the way out of.  The romance is deeply sweet and innocent.  Throw in a Dickensian street urchin pickpocket, and you have everything you could ask for in a historical tale of mystery and intrigue.  Speaking of history, everything you'll need to know is explained in the book, but there's plenty for the curious to sink their teeth into researching later, from the real-life apothecary's garden in London to the shifting power dynamic in world politics post-WWII.  The illustrations at the start of every chapter add a vintage feel with an atmosphere of suspense, but none of the characters are depicted outright, nicely avoiding the "but that's not what she looks like!" moment.

The Apothecary is published by Putnam Juvenile and retails for $16.99.  I got my used copy with my very own money.  You can get yours at Left Bank Books today!

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