A mysterious apothecary, a magic book, a missing scientist, an impossible plan

Just some of the hooks to be found in The Apothecary, Maile Meloy’s first venture into writing for young readers.

Maile is the award-winning author of short story collections Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It and Half in Love and novels, Liars and Saints and A Family Daughter, and her skills as a writer are clearly evident from the first page.

Straight away she draws the reader into the 1950s setting and introduces the strong-minded 14 year-old Janie and her closeknit, slightly quirky family.

Janie has just moved to London from LA and is feeling uncomfortable in her strange new school until she is given a homesickness remedy by the local apothecary.

But the apothecary, is no ordinary man and neither is his son, Benjamin who Janie quickly forms an attraction to. Their relationships is sensitively portrayed showing the times they live in and the tentativeness and insecurities of first love.

And after Benjamin’s father is kidnapped, and they are entrusted with the care of an ancient, magical book, the Pharmacopoeia, there’s little time for romance anyway. Especially not when there are Russian spies, traitor police officers and lives in danger.

The Apothecary is fast-paced but it also allows the reader time to engage with the characters and become immersed in their world. Janie is a strong and believable heroine and of course there are obstacles in the way of her feelings for Benjamin, including the gorgeous and disdainful Sarah Pennington who doesn’t miss an opportunity to belittle Janie.

In The Apothecary, Maile Meloy keeps raising the stakes for her main characters until it seems that victory is impossible.

But it’s hard to keep these characters down, and their ingenuity and determination bring them out of the pages and make them real for the reader. This book is full of magic and sparkle, spies, evil and global intrigue.

Ian Schoenherr’s amazing illustrations capture the world, the mystery and the mood of The Apothecary and bring the reader closer to the characters and the action.

The Apothecary is an exciting, well-researched adventure that readers will find hard to put down, no matter what genre they favour. It’s a book that can be enjoyed by readers aged 12 to adult.

As the Weekend Australian said of Maile Meloy. She is ‘A master of her craft.’

The Apothecary is published in Australia by The Text Publishing Company. Teachers’ Notes are available at


Published by

Dee White

Dee White lives with her husband and two sons in a small rural country town which has more kangaroos than people. She has worked as an advertising copywriter and journalist and has had numerous career changes because until recently, writing wasn’t considered to be a proper job. Letters to Leonardo, her first novel with Walker Books Australia, was published in 2009 to great critical acclaim.