4.5 stars full review at Fire and Ice http://fireandicephoto.blogspot.com/2011/05/book-review-apothecary.html
I have always been fascinated by apothecaries and their work of mixing potions, so when I saw this book I was immediately interested. Main protagonist, Janie has moves with her parents in a very secretive manner from Los Angeles to London and upon arrival they venture into a small old fashioned pharmacy for hot water bottles to keep them warm. There they meet the local apothecary, an intelligent middle aged man who stirs up a fresh batch of something special to help Janie with her homesickness. But going to school in a private academy with uniforms and no friends, Janie can't help but to feel a little forlorn. That is, until she meets the apothecary's son Benjamin. Janie catches him following her on errands one afternoon and from there they become fast friends and "chess partners in the park. " The reality morphs as the two of them transform into young spies pulled head first into a web of secrets, danger and compromised national security. Bejamin's father is missing, the two children have an old book they are to protect with their life and a new pickpocket sidekick named Pip. Can they save the secrets passed down from generation to generation or will they be caught by the man with the scarred face?
This is my favorite middle grade read in a long time! I loved the illustrations that are sprinkled in as well as the fast paced suspenseful narrative. Set close on the heels time wise of CS Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia series, The Apothecary has a historical element that teaches what life may have been like for those children affected by the war- including threats of bombings, drills, and overall suspicion of all foreign residents. Along with the historical piece there is a magical, wonderful overlay of adventure that will spark the imagination. There is some moderate violence, but otherwise nothing worrisome in content. I truly enjoyed every minute of the Apothecary Though it concluded like a stand alone, I can't help hoping there will be more books coming for Janie and Benjamin!