I just got five tweets in a row from a girl who’d finished reading The Apothecary, in which the two main characters, Janie and Benjamin, are separated at the end. She wrote, “HOW CAN YOU END IT THAT WAY? OMG ARE YOU WRITING ANOTHER BOOK? DO THEY SEE EACH OTHER AGAIN? I’M CRYING NOW BC OF YOUR BOOK. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT?”
The answer is that I feel a little bit terrible, but mostly I’m thrilled. I think it’s one of the things novels are for: providing a safe place to experience love and adventure, but also compassion and loss. Reading did that for me, when I was growing up. Charlotte’s Web, The Bridge to Terabithia, The Chronicles of Narnia, A Wrinkle in Time — they let you practice being brave, and expand your heart as well as your mind.
But that’s not what the girls want to hear. (It’s mostly girls who write to me. Boys do read The Apothecary—thanks largely to Ian Schoenherr’s wonderfully gender-neutral cover—but boys are more content with the ending, probably because Benjamin gets to go off with his father to save the world from nuclear devastation, while Janie gets stuck in London with her more ordinary parents. It’s not really fair.)
So I’m thrilled to be able to say that yes, there’s another book. It begins in 1954, with Janie in boarding school in New Hampshire, working on a science experiment. She knows that Benjamin is somewhere out in the world, but she doesn’t know where. Then a small glassine envelope arrives in the mail, containing Benjamin’s latest invention: a substance that will let Janie see through his eyes, and he through hers.
So Benjamin and Janie do find each other again, but it requires all of their ingenuity and grit, and some magic. I didn’t know how they were going to do it, when I started, so the book has been an adventure for me, too. Writing for kids has opened up a whole part of my brain that I wasn’t using before—and maybe of my heart, too. And Ian’s beautiful illustrations are back, which makes The Apprentices an art object as much as a book, one that wants be printed on paper and held in the hand.
Thank you for everything, I hope you’ll like the book.
About the Contributor
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.
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