The Apothecary

The Apothecary Book Cover The Apothecary
Maile Meloy
Adventure, Historical Fiction
Puffin Books
August 29, 2011

Janie Scott is a Californian who moved to London because of political issues during the Cold War. When Janie is homesick, the apothecary down the block gives her a cure. Janie goes to school and meets Benjamin Burrows, the apothecary’s son. Benjamin asks Janie to help him spy on Mr. Shiskin, who supposedly works for the Soviet embassy. The next day, Mr. Shiskin gives a message to the apothecary, who gives them a book called the Pharmacopoceia and disappears. The gardener at the Chelsea Garden explains that the Pharmacopoceia is a book of alchemy and medicines. When someone kills the gardener, Detective Montclair takes them to Turnbull Hall and questions them. Mr. Danby, the Latin teacher, retrieves them, but Benjamin and Janie realize that he is not to be trusted and escape from him. They rescue another alchemist, Jin Lo, from Mr. Danby with an invisibility potion. Jin Lo recreates the apothecary, and they prepare for a mission to contain a nuclear bomb test. Jin Lo and the apothecary do not allow Benjamin and Janie to come with them, but they come anyways by using another invisibility potion, and they all head to Nova Zembla to stop the bomb on the boat of Count Vili, a viscount who can stop time, the Kong Olaf. Along the way, they have to deal with Russian ships, spies, and physicists, and face the final challenge: how to stop the bomb.

The Apothecary has been on my to-read list for a long time, but I never had the chance to read it before now. It did not have some of the elements that I think books should have, such as humor. For a children’s book, humor was scarce, which I thought was bizarre. Since this book is easy to comprehend and has a simple plot, I would recommend it to younger readers. If I had to choose a book again, I might not have chosen this book because I would rather read something more challenging, despite the intriguing plot. I would give this book a seven point nine out of ten.


1. Why do the Scotts move to London?
1a. The government was watching them because they were suspected of being Communists, and the Scotts wanted to avoid them.
2. Why does Benjamin invite Janie to play chess with him?
2a. Benjamin wants to spy on Mr. Shiskin, whom, according to Benjamin, works for the Soviet embassy.
3. What is the Pharmacopoecia?
3a. It is a book of medicines and magical potions.
4. How do Benjamin and Janie question Mr. Shiskin?
4a. They use a potion called the Smell of Truth, which they found in the Pharmacopoecia and makes anyone that smells it tell the truth.
5. Why do Benjamin and Janie lie about the gardener’s death?
5a. Both the gardener and Benjamin’s father said not to trust the police, and if Janie’s parents found out the truth, they would have called the police.

oleomargarine (pg. 2)
ambivalent (pg. 28)
recessed (pg. 54)
eloquent (pg. 88)
labyrinthine (pg. 114)

6. Why did Detective Montclair take Janie and Benjamin to Turnbull Hall?
6a. He wanted to question them about the gardener’s death.
7. How do the children turn into birds?
7a. They drink the avian elixir that the gardener left in the garden.
8. Where do they get the gold to make the invisibility potion?
8a. Janie gives up the earrings that her grandmother once had.
9. Who is Mr. Danby’s prisoner?
9a. She is Jin Lo, a Chinese chemist that is finding a way to contain the blast of a nuclear bomb.
10. Why do they borrow warm clothes from Sarah Pennington?
10a. They are going to the north, and Sarah is very rich and has wardrobes full of clothes.

snitches (pg. 124)
idled (pg. 130)
austere (pg. 176)
offshoots (pg. 207)
diaphanous (pg. 233)

11. Why did Pip not sneak aboard the Kong Olaf as well?
11a. He was not invisible, and he also had to create a distraction so that Benjamin and Janie could sneak aboard.
12. How does the Kong Olaf become the Anniken?
12a. Jin Lo creates a mixture that paints the hull of the ship red, then Ludvik proposes that they call the ship the Anniken, after his daughter.
13. How do Jin Lo, the apothecary, Benjamin, and Janie reach Nova Zembla from the Anniken?
13a. They use the avian elixir to turn into birds and fly there.
14. According to Sakharov, the Russian scientist, how does the atomic bomb work?
14a. The bomb splits the atom, then uses the energy produced to combine the atoms, and then uses that energy to split the atoms again.
15. How do Benjamin and the apothecary wipe the memory of Janie, her parents, and Pip?
15a. They tell them to drink a champane that makes the drinker forget things.

inbred (pg. 242)
inconsequential (pg. 278)
disdainfully (pg. 300)
insidious (pg. 322)
mezzanine (pg. 342)