Meloy, Maile. The Apothecary.
ARC received from publisher. Publication date October 4, 2011
In 1952, Janie's screenwriter parents are caught in the anti-Communist purges in Hollywood and leave for a job writing a television show in London. Jane isn't happy about this, but meets a nice boy at school, Benjamin. The only problem is that his father is an apothecary... and not just the sort of chap who sells bandages and ointments. When a local gardener is murdered, Janie finds out that Benjamin's father is working with a group of scientists who are opposed to all of the atomic bombing that has occurred, and this puts him in the sights of some Russian spies who are trying to steal his book of spells. The children avail themselves of many of these, running about London while invisible, sneaking on to ships, and generally having an adventure while trying to keep the book, Benjamin's father, and the world safe from bombing and Communism.
Strengths: The package from the publisher was very lovely, with a glass bottle of gold glitter and everything. Impressive. The first part of this story reminded me of Helene Hanff and, oddly, The Little Princess. The illustrations look like they lend a Hugo Cabret type ambience to the book, but are not complete in the ARC. The story is solid and well-developed.
Weaknesses: Somehow, the spies were an off note for me. I was enjoying Janie's settling in to London life and the alchemy, but the interpolation of Russian spies didn't work as well for me. There had to be someone who was stalking them, and given the time frame this made sense. I normally love spies, so don't know why. Candace's Book Blog felt this lacked "oomph". Maile Maloy usually writes for adults, so the change to children's literature might be the problem.