Reviews for Apothecary

Booklist Reviews 2011 September #1
Janie, 14, has been living happily with her screenwriter parents in Hollywood. But it's 1952, and blacklisting makes it imperative that the family moves to London, where a TV job awaits. Janie is not happy about this, but a startling adventure opens to her as she becomes friends with Benjamin Burrows, whose father is an apothecary, and not just any apothecary. Mr. Burrows is part of a small, international group of scientists who are trying to contain the destructive results of the atomic bomb, including a weapon that is being tested off the coast of Russia. Those who know little about blacklisting, the Cold War, and European life after WWII will just have to dive into the fantasy-adventure pool, which runs long and deep. Magic elixirs, transformational disguises, and everyday cunning help Janie, Benjamin, and several scientists elude capture and defeat the desperate cabal that supports the Soviet Union. Readers must be willing to traverse a complicated tale and avoid stepping in a few plot holes, but Meloy offers a strong narrator in Janie and an intriguing mix of history and mystery. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Spring
In 1952, Janie's family moves to London. When her new friend Benjamin's father--the titular apothecary--goes missing, the kids discover he's more of an alchemist; they develop magic elixirs that help them free the man and avert nuclear war. Janie's first-person narrative is engaging, the characters are well drawn, and the historical details nail the Cold War setting.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 September #2

Following the paths of Neil Gaiman, Julia Alvarez and Carl Hiaasen, bestselling author Meloy (Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It, 2009, etc.) takes a successful plunge into middle-grade fiction.

Before the House Committee on Un-American Activities can interrogate Janie Scott's Hollywood writing-team parents for being possible Communists, they move to London. "I was no witty, patient, adaptable Jane Austen," the 14-year-old admits as she recalls helping to save the world in 1952. While palling around with Benjamin Burrows, who'd rather be a spy than follow in the apothecary family tradition, Janie becomes entangled with Cold War espionage after Benjamin's father mysteriously disappears, leaving behind a secret 700-year-old book of magic elixirs. As the teens, joined by pickpocket Pip (seemingly plucked out of Great Expectations), search for the apothecary (truly an alchemist), they must also outrun their dreamy Latin teacher (who could be a double agent), rescue a kidnapped Chinese chemist and work with other scientists from around the world to thwart the Soviet's detonation of an atomic bomb 20 times more powerful than Hiroshima's, all while testing out some of the elixirs along the way.

Although Janie's narration loses some of its charm and humor as the adventure escalates, its blend of history, culture and the anxiety of the time with magical "science" will keep readers just as spellbound as the characters. (art not seen) (Historical fantasy. 10-14)

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 September #1

When the House Committee on Un-American Activities targets Janie's television writer parents, the 14-year-old and her family flee from Los Angeles to London. There, Janie meets Benjamin, a "defiant" classmate, and his father, the neighborhood apothecary, who is involved in much more than hot water bottles and aspirin. In fact, he is part of a long line of apothecaries who have discovered miraculous secrets--truth serums, invisibility, amazing physical transformations--and he is now working with scientists on an incredible plan that has global ramifications with regard to the escalating tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States. Some readers may need to brush up on cold war history to fully appreciate the stakes, but even those with a vague understanding of the times will be quickly swept up in this 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. Readers will hope they haven't heard the last from Janie and Benjamin. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2011 December

Gr 5-8--A fairly interesting mystery set mostly in 1952 London, The Apothecary offers a little of everything; magic, romance, mystery, and historical fiction. When friends of Janie's parents are blacklisted in Hollywood (they are a television writing team), the Scotts move to London. Around the corner from their flat is a mysterious shop with an enigmatic apothecary. The man's son is Janie's new friend at school. When she and Benjamin, who aspires to be a spy, happen to witness a handoff involving a Russian attaché in the park, the teens get more than they bargained for. As it turns out, not only is Benjamin's father involved, but the Latin instructor at their school is also a part of this web of espionage. The two rush to save the apothecary only to find out that he is attempting to stop a nuclear test in Soviet territory. Everyone goes along to help stop the explosion. However, the magic occasionally feels like a contrivance to move the plot forward instead of an organic part of the fantasy. The ending is sort of a free-for-all, and the created world doesn't really keep to the rules set up at the beginning. Nonetheless, this is a highly readable adventure/mystery, and it is greatly enhanced by Schoenherr's graceful and evocative illustrations.--Robin Henry, Wakeland High School, Frisco, TX

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VOYA Reviews 2011 October
This entertaining and informative novel ventures into the infrequently explored Cold War era. Janie's parents, both television writers, are forced to leave Los Angeles to escape the hysteria of the Red Scare. The family heads to London where the post-war, cold-water flat does not include enough heat or blankets, so they head off to the apothecary for hot-water bottles. Mr. Burrows, the apothecary, makes Janie a special homesickness remedy, which unfortunately does not also address her frustration in attending a very traditional school, wearing a dull uniform, being mocked by posh girls, having to learn Latin, and practicing her "duck-and-cover" drills. It is during one of the drills that Janie notices Benjamin, Mr. Burrows's son, and finds him crush-worthy. The kidnapping of his father leads them on a great escapade filled with shape-changing, invisibility, and a resourceful new friend, Pip This atmospheric first effort in the young adult arena by this author touches on the big issues in an adventure filled with imagination, fun, and first love. The tale is told with perspicacity after a slow start. It is good, strong historical fiction spiced with intrigue, magical realism, mystery, suspense, and science. The plot and pacing are a bit uneven at points, but the spies and historical twist give it a lot of flavor. The illustrations are fluid and delightful. This is a great pleasure read for ages ten and up and may even encourage readers to pursue more period information.--Ava Ehde 3Q 4P M J S Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.