The Apothecary (Apothecary Series #1)

The Apothecary (Apothecary Series #1)

by Maile Meloy


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The Apothecary (Apothecary Series #1) by Maile Meloy

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. Contains a teaser chapter of the sequel, The Apprentices.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780142422069
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 02/12/2013
Series: Apothecary Series , #1
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 67,119
Product dimensions: 5.68(w) x 8.08(h) x 0.98(d)
Lexile: 740L (what's this?)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

Maile Meloy is the award-winning author of The Apothecary and The Apprentices as well as the adult short story collections Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It and Half in Love, and the novels Liars and Saints and A Family Daughter. You can visit Maile at


Los Angeles, California

Date of Birth:


Place of Birth:

Helena, Montana


M.F.A. in Fiction, University of California, Irvine, 2000

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 2


The Apothecary

It’s safe to say I was not graceful about the move to London. I was no witty, patient, adaptable Jane Austen. And if I was anything like Katharine Hepburn, it was in the scenes where she’s being a giant pest. I cried in the taxi all the way to the airport, past the churning oil rigs on La Cienega. I cried on the first airplane I’d ever been on, which should have been exciting, and was exciting—all those tiny buildings below—but I wasn’t going to give my parents the satisfaction of knowing that I was enjoying it.

At Heathrow Airport in London, there was a framed picture of the brand-new Queen Elizabeth II on the wall.

“She’s not that much older than you are,” my mother said.

“And she’s been through a war, and her father’s dead, and

now she has to be queen, poor thing.”

“See?” my father said. “Your life could be worse.”

I looked at the picture of the young queen. We had escaped ahead of the U.S. marshals, locking up the house and packing only the things we could carry. My parents were going to be writing for the BBC under fake names—fake names, when my mother wouldn’t even put yellow food coloring in margarine! We were living like criminals or spies. Although I was angry, standing there looking at the plucky young queen’s portrait, I allowed myself to think that my mother was right, and it might be an adventure.

But February in London crushed those hopes. We took a taxi through streets that were still bomb-scarred and desolate, seven years after the war’s end, to a tiny third-floor flat on St. George’s Street in Primrose Hill. Across the street was a haberdasher—my father said he was like a tailor—standing outside his shop with his hands behind his back and a look on his face as if no one would ever come in.

Our new landlady, Mrs. Parrish, took off her apron and patted a wild cloud of hair to show us around. She said the gas water heater over the kitchen sink was broken, and we would have to heat pots of water on the stove. The kitchen was along one side of the living room, no bigger than a closet, and could be closed away just like a closet. The rooms were freezing and the walls seemed damp. The brown wallpaper was water-stained near the ceiling.

We must have looked dismayed, because the distracted Mrs. Parrish suddenly focused on us. She was not going to let some spoiled Americans fail to appreciate their good fortune.

“You’re lucky to get the place, you know,” she said.

“Of course,” my mother said quickly. “We’re very grateful.” “People are queuing up for a flat like this, with its own

lavatory, and separate bedrooms, and a working telephone line. But the BBC asked to hold it, specially.” It was clear that we did not deserve such a bounty, when her countrymen, who had lost so much, were still going without private bathrooms.

“We’re very grateful,” my mother repeated.

“Do you have your ration cards for the marketing?”

“Not yet,” my mother said.

“You’ll need those,” the landlady said. “And you’ll find that

the butcher sells out first thing in the morning, ration cards or no.” She lowered her voice. “I can sell you some eggs, if you like. They’re hard to get, but I know someone with hens.”

“That would be very nice.”

Mrs. Parrish showed us where to put penny coins into the gas heater in the wall, to make it work. We didn’t have any English pennies, but said we would get some.

“Mark you,” she said, brushing dust from the heater off her hands, “it doesn’t do much. Apart from eat up pennies. You’ll want your hot water bottles for the beds.”

“We don’t have hot water bottles,” my mother said.

“Try the apothecary,” the landlady said. “Around the corner, on Regent’s Park. He’ll have pennies, too.”

And she left us alone.

My mother started investigating the closet kitchen, and my father and I put on every warm thing we had, which wasn’t much, to go find the apothecary, which my father said was like a pharmacy. The sky over St. George’s Street was gray, and the buildings were gray, and people wore gray. It sounds like a cliché, but it was true. Going from Los Angeles to London in 1952 was like leaving a Technicolor movie and walking into a black-and-white one.

Around the corner on Regent’s Park Road, just as the landlady said, we came to a storefront with two bay windows full of glass bottles. A painted sign over one window said APOTHECARY, and one over the other window said ESTABLISHED 1871. My father pushed the paned glass door open and held it for me. The shop had a strange smell, musty and herbal and metallic all at once. Behind the counter was a wall of jars. A balding man on a wheeled ladder, halfway up the wall, pulled a jar down. He seemed not to have noticed us, but then he spoke. “I’ll just be a moment,” he said.

He carefully climbed down the ladder with the jar in one hand, set it on the counter, and looked up at us, ready for our needs. He had wire-rimmed glasses and the air of someone who didn’t rush things, who paid close attention to each particular task before moving on to the next.

“We’re looking for three hot water bottles,” my father told


“Of course.”

“And how about some chocolate bars?” The apothecary shook his head.

“We have them sometimes. Not often, since the war.”

“Since the war?” my father said, and I could see him calculating: twelve years without a steady supply of chocolate. He looked a little faint. I wondered if he could get a prescription for chocolate from a doctor. Then I could have some, too.

“Come back again,” the apothecary said, seeing his dismay. “We may have some soon.”

“Okay,” my father said. “We’d better get some aspirin, too.” I could tell he was embarrassed by his undisguised need for candy, and he always made jokes when he was embarrassed. I could feel one coming. “And how about something for my daughter, to cure homesickness?”

“Dad,” I said. The apothecary looked at me.

“You’re American?” I nodded.

“And you’ve moved here to a cold flat with cold bedrooms that need hot water bottles?”

I nodded again, and the apothecary guided the ladder along the back wall on its metal wheels.

“I was joking,” my father said.

“But you are homesick?” the apothecary asked, over his shoulder.

“Well—yes,” I said.

He climbed the ladder and chose two jars, tucking one beneath his arm to climb down. At the counter, he unscrewed the lids and measured two different powders, one yellow and one brown, into a small glass jar. “The brown is aspen, the yellow is honeysuckle,” he said. To my father, he said, “Neither will hurt her.” To me, he said, “Put about a dram of each—do you know how much a dram is? About a teaspoon of each in a glass of water. It won’t take effect right away, but it might make you feel better. And it might not. People have different constitutions.”

“We really don’t—” my father said.

“It’s free of charge,” the apothecary said. “It’s for the young lady.” Then he rang up the hot water bottles and the bottle of aspirin.

“Thank you,” I said.

“You’ll want some pennies, too, for the wall heater,” he said, handing me our change in a fistful of big brown coins that clinked, rather than jingled, into my hand.


Excerpted from "The Apothecary"
by .
Copyright © 2013 Maile Meloy.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Young Readers Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Praise for Maile Meloy’s THE APOTHECARY:
A New York Times Bestseller
E.B. White Read-Aloud Book Award Winner
2011 Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
2011 Wall Street Journal Best of the Year
2011 Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Reading List
 “Inventive, smart and fun, an absolute delight.”
REBECCA STEAD, Newbery Award-winning author of WHEN YOU REACH ME
“[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.”
“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.”
“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.’”
“[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.”
“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.”
“[I]ts blend of history, culture and the anxiety of the time with magical “science” will keep readers just as spellbound as the characters.”
“[G]ood, strong historical fiction spiced with intrigue, magical realism, mystery, suspense, and science…the spies and historical twist give it a lot of flavor.  The illustrations are fluid and delightful.”

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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The Apothecary 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 66 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Apothecary was a pretty well-thought out book with different layers of elements. For a first-time young reader's novel, it was exceptionally well. I enjoyed the book and it had clear descriptions so I could really see the characters. I would reccommend this book to others!
BookSake More than 1 year ago
Who doesn't love a little alchemy in their stories? The Apothecary is fun adventure for both boys and girls. While the story is geared towards young readers (10 and up) there might be a bit of confusion about the story's basis. The storyline all happens because of politics, and involves talk of communism, Russian spies, atomic bombs, and war. Many middle grade readers won't know what's going on when it comes to these areas. The fantasy portion, which involves the alchemy I mentioned previously, is perfect for the young reader and is a lot of fun. The two kids, Janie and Benjamin, are courageous and get to do lots of cool things kids will envy them for. The miss for this book is the fact that the fantasy seems young while the political storyline seems old and it doesn't work to its fullest ability for either age range. As an adult I found everything to be predictable and felt that there was not enough depth to the characters involved. The Advanced Reader's Copy that I read didn't have the complete artwork in it yet, but from the pages that did contain the illustrations - I thought they were great and added a good touch to the story. ARC Reviewed by Jessica for Book Sake.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the best book on the planet!!!!!!! For people who like action and adventure!!!! Buy it it is great
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LOVE this book. It is great for seven and up. :) my sister read it and LOVED it! She was thrilled. I loved it to. I bet he or she has more books that are amazing. If you like this book (if you read it) you you love it to!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an amazing book, i would highly recommend it. I really hope they make more!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Apothecary is a wonderful book. It is geat for grades 6-8, and provides a perfect balance of romance, magic, and mystery. If you enjoy adventures this book will keep you reading and never wanting to stop. Not only does it have a good writing style, but it also provides the right amount of challenge and fun for a young reader. I hope there is to be a sequel written, for this would definalty engage the reader alittle more.
AcesMommy More than 1 year ago
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!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read for a 5th grade lit group. Awesome vocabulary to work with can be creative for book reports. Possibly a bit long for end of year.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BENJAMIN!!!!!!!!!!! He is so sweet and kind and adventorous
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is one of my new favorites, however i thought that the next two books in the series weren't as good. Despite that i think that you should at least read the first one. Normaly i dont read a lot of fiction books but i loved this one. Must read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a really great book, I suggest that you read it! It starts off a bit slow but after the first couple chapters it gets a lot better. Melony makes Janie and Benjerman apper right in front of you. This book is peiced together very nicely and there is not one moment when there was no action at all! As you can see, I really suggest that you read this amazing book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is packed with adventure, history, and fun! This is one of the best books I have ever read! Hope everyone else enjoys it as much as I did!
thebookneard More than 1 year ago
Okay, I did not think that this book was going to be good. And it wasn't. It was AMAZING.I got this book at my school's library by just  picking this book randomly on the shelf. I had to pick a book cause it was part of my grade. I mean I love to read, but i read teen books and like books like The Maze Runner series. So I had this book in my desk for a week and i finally decided to read it. It was SO GOOD! I finished this book in 2 days. The ending was really good! Get this book at your library or Barnes & Noble. I think you should buy it  because then you can read it over and over. This book is totally one of my favorite books. Buy this book!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
good you listen now pass this message on in 5 ither review posts
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BEAT BOOK EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I think this book is the MOST AMAZING BOOK ANYONE HAS EVER WRITTEN IN THE HISTORY OF BOOKS. I REALLY DONT KNOW HOW TO TOP IT. ALL I CAN SAY IS I AM SPEECHLESS AND READ IT!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Apothecary is the BEST book ever !!!!!! You should read it there is a lot of "what will happen next"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved every bit of this amazingly awesome book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The apothecary is really good!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I <3 this book so much ecpesialy the characters. Cant wait to read the second one. Been trying to find benjiman and see waht he looks like. Omg i read it twice
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is totes yummy i totes like bnjamin the totes most and jin lo wahaaaaaaa