CHILDREN’S BOOK REVIEW: “The Apothecary” by Maile Meloy


  • The ApothecaryStars: 5
  • Would I recommend it: YES
  • Age range: 8-12 (although for younger readers you can skip the soppy stuff!! and maybe the ocassional “bl**dy”)

I picked up this book in the library to read with SC. The cover looked pretty and the blurb on the back had me thinking it could be quite a good page-turner of a book.

“Janie Scott has just moved to London from sunny LA, and she’s finding it forbidding, dreary and cold. That is until she meets Benjamin Burrows who dreams of becoming a spy. When Benjamin’s father – a mysterious apothecary – is kidnapped, he entrusts Janie and Benjamin with a powerful book, full of ancient spells and magical potions.

But there are others who seek the book’s secrets – spies in possession of nuclear weapons that could destroy the world …”

Oh my goodness!

We were not disappointed – and I will try not to give away any spoilers.

This book is a fabulous story.  It has it all love, adventure, excitement, magic, history and above all the idea of keeping your mind open to the possibility that anything is possible!

It created quite a bit of discussion in this house, and me having to hark back to school and remembering my History classes about the aftermath of World War 2. I had to explain about the McCarthy Witch Hunts that took place in the States, what the Cold War was, why there was a theoretical “iron curtain” hanging down the middle of Europe and the fact you couldn’t cross over it and even nuclear weapons and how they worked in theory – my goodness my brain got quite a workout – although I think I may have to do a bit of reading up on nuclear physics (it was never my strongest subject at school)

So, on top of all that background history going on throughout the story, there was an exciting adventure and a race against time, intertwined with alchemy, magic and herbal lore.

When you reach the end of the book it does leave a few questions unanswered, but thankfully having look up on the internet there are 2 more books that are sequels to this one – so thankfully we will be able to read on and see what happens 😉

So that’s a quick run-down on what the book has inside without mentioning anything specific about the plot.

There’s just one quote from the book that struck a chord with me:

“… we should not stop at our desire to protect our own children in their immediate world. we want the streets they walk to be safe, and the walls around them to be sound, and we want to be able to put food in their bellies. These are natural desires.

But if we truly want them to be safe and well, we must make the greater world a different place. As it stands, we are all threatened, at every moment, and nothing we do to lock our own doors and earn our pay and tuck our children in bed will make the slightest difference.”

As a parent, you want nothing more than to protect your child from harm. You will move heaven and earth to keep them safe. Sometimes, our best endeavours are not enough and the unimaginable becomes reality. I cannot comprehend how that must feel and I can only imagine that such an awful reality must leave a huge hole in a parent’s life that can never heal.

But I think the above quote cuts deeper than just that of being a parent, and that is being a human being.

This story is about the Cold War, nuclear weapons and the power of fear. However relevant the quote is for that period in time, it is also extremely relevant in today’s world.

There may not be an Iron Curtain, and the Cold War may well have thawed somewhat over the years, but nowadays the threats come from other sources – so how can we protect our children and each other?

It has been said that in order to change the world, we must start with ourselves and become the embodiment of what we want the world to be.

If we fight hate with hate, hate wins. But can we fight hate with love? And if so, how?

So let’s all try to make the greater world a different place – maybe all it takes to start is a smile – it can’t hurt, right?

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