The premise: It's 1952 and the Cold War is in full swing, as is the Communist Hunt (the Red Scare) in the United States. Fourteen-year-old Janie Scott moves to London with her parents to escape what the U.S. government is doing to those with suspected Communist sympathies. In London, Janie meets the Apothecary, and he harbors dangerous secrets. He also has a son named Benjamin. And then the Apothecary goes missing . . .
What keeps readers reading: An inventive blend of history mixed with magic. When Janie and Benjamin discover the strength of the secrets Benjamin's father holds--and a sense of why people want him dead--they will stop at nothing to get the Apothecary back. Suddenly, the Apothecary's job, which never interested Benjamin, is very important to him . . . and to everyone else.
What I loved: This is a historical unlike any other I've read--and I've read MANY. The Apothecary has this super cool magic element and it mixes that with historical undertones. It takes science, nature, medicine, and magic and flips it all into something that's designed to help the world. The novel left me with that "if only this were true" and "why does this have to be fiction" feeling.
For more middle grade recommendations, visit the links right here: Shannon Messenger's blog.
Happy middle grade reading!