I just finished Maile Meloy's, The Apothecary. What a spectacular middle grades adventure story! Set in 1952's London, The Apothecary tells the story of Janie, a new and reluctant Londoner who has recently moved with her parents from their home in sunny Los Angeles. Her parents, Hollywood writers, are suspected of being communists, and make the move to London to avoid persecution. Janie is ambivalent about the move, but soon finds herself embracing her new life after she meets a wannabe spy, Benjamin Burrows, the local apothecary's son.
The plot moves quickly. Janie and Benjamin become friends, and Benjamin immediately pulls Janie into his spy games. Benjamin is tracking a man he believes to be a Russian spy, and he and Janie are surprised to discover Benjamin's dad, the apothecary, is one of the spy's contacts. Nothing is as it seems, and the pair soon learn that Benjamin's dad is no ordinary apothecary. He is an alchemist, with dangerous secrets and a mysterious book full of elixirs, cures and unbelievable powers.
When the apothecary disappears, Janie and Benjamin are entrusted with the protection of the mysterious book, The Pharmacopeia. The protection of the book is a matter of world security. Russian spies are after the book, and now they are after Janie and Benjamin. Using the book's peculiar elixirs, the two teenagers are able to avoid capture (mostly) and keep the book safe.
With the help of a Chinese alchemist, a Hungarian count, and a London pickpocket, Janie and Benjamin are able to save the apothecary and prevent a nuclear disaster. At book's end, the amnesia inducing memory elixir and the disappearance of Benjamin and his father keep the reader guessing what will happen next, and hoping the Maile Meloy will write another amazing tale to follow The Apothecary.
The pacing of the plot and the mystery of the story make The Apothecary a fantastic recommendation for young mystery lovers, or for the parent or teacher looking for a captivating read aloud book to share with pre-teen listeners.
I hope you enjoy The Apothecary as much as I did!
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