The Apothecary

The Apothecary

Book rating: 04 Hardback

By (author) Maile Meloy, Illustrated by Ian Schoenherr

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  • Publisher: Penguin Putnam Inc
  • Format: Hardback | 368 pages
  • Dimensions: 142mm x 213mm x 36mm | 454g
  • Publication date: 4 October 2011
  • Publication City/Country: New York, NY
  • ISBN 10: 039925627X
  • ISBN 13: 9780399256271
  • Sales rank: 101,653

Product description

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.

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Author information

Maile Meloy is the author of the story collection "Half in Love," and the novels "Liars and Saints," shortlisted for the 2005 Orange Prize, and "A Family Daughter." Meloy's stories have been published in "The New Yorker," and she has received "The Paris Review's" Aga Khan Prize for Fiction, the PEN/Malamud Award, the Rosenthal Foundation Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2007, she was chosen as one of Granta's Best American Novelists under 35. She lives in California.

Customer reviews

By SpadesHigh 29 Jul 2011 4

First off, if you didn't know what an Apothecary is, it's another name for a Pharmacist or a person who prepares and sells medicine/drugs.
I was going to rate The Apothecary 3 1/2 stars in the beginning because the story drags on and is some what monotonous, but you get use to the writing style and towards the end it started to get really good. And the ending was just perfect.

Jane Scott, aka Janie which she prefers to be called, is a 14 year old who lives in Los Angeles with her parents. They soon secretively leave and move to London when Janie gets followed home from school by the government. The government believes that Jane's parents are communists, so they are placed on a list with other people who needs to be "watched."
On arriving to London, Janie dislikes everything from her new home, her new school, the uniform, and the "populars" of St. Beden's School. But soon all that changes when a simple Bomb Drill happens during lunch and a defiant boy who doesn't see the point to comply with hiding under the table catches her eye and draws her attention.
On her way home from school she hears the familiar voice of the boy and realizes that he is the Apothecary's son, Benjamin. Janie eavesdrops on their conversation and over hears their argument on how Benjamin does not want to take on the family business. Benjamin's decision gets put into question after his father gets kidnapped and the only one he can turn to is Janie.
Benjamin and Janie then go head on into a world of secrets, lies, danger, and things that you would never believe was possible, alchemy.

I enjoyed Janie so much because she is very mature for a fourteen year old. She's witty and smart and not at all needy, juvenile, or the damsel in distress. Maile Meloy did very well to make Janie relatable and a great narrator in the story.

Benjamin, the male protagonist, was really plain. That's not to say it was a bad thing. He was very refreshing to read because he didn't right off the bat fall "love at first sight" fancied Janie like most YAs produce. He was not so much as a bad boy persona but a driven and outspoken character. With all the trials and tribulations Benjamin and Janie went through, it left no room for a romantic relationship, however, there was room to blossom.

Pip is such a character!! I love him! Pip plays the sidekick roll to the two, but he brought such a critical roll that without him the story would lack luster. He is very distinct, cocky, and comical that he made the most nerve wrecking of times enjoyable and humorous.

I couldn't help but see The Apothecary side by side with The Chronicles of Narnia and The Golden Compass. The Apothecary is written whimsically and fairy tale like. A story I would love to be read to, and a story I will read to my son at bed time.

The ending had me in tears and ended in a good note, some what as a stand alone. I can only wish The Apothecary is the beginning of a series and that there will be more adventures with Benjamin and Janie with Pip at the tow.


Thank you Putnam Juvenile for this well liked ARC treat!!

Review quote

Praise for Maile Meloy's enchanting E. B. White Award-winning novel, "THE APOTHECARY: " "Inventive, smart and fun, an absolute delight."--Rebecca Stead, Newbery Award-winning author of "When You Reach Me" STARRED REVIEW from "PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: " "[A] thoroughly enjoyable adventure, filled with magic, humor, memorable characters, and just a bit of sweet romance. With evocative, confident prose and equally atmospheric spot art from Schoenherr, adult author Meloy's first book for young readers is an auspicious one." From "THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW: " "[Meloy] brings to her first book for young readers the same emotional resonance that has won acclaim for her adult fiction, grounding her story in the intricacies of family love, friendship and loyalty blended here with the complicated fluctuations of adolescence." From "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: " "Maile Meloy's sly commingling of the real and the imaginary make this a witty and entertaining Cold War romp--with a touch of age-appropriate romance." From "USA"" TODAY" "The title of Maile Meloy's smartly written, page-turning adventure/fantasy refers to a magical druggist in London in 1952. . . . It's for curious readers who, like Meloy's characters, can make room in their imaginations and 'allow for the possibilities.'"