The Memory Bank - Carolyn Coman & Rob Shepperson

Fair warning: Mr. and Mrs. Scroggins, the parents in this book, are absolutely despicable. Not funny-despicable like the Willoughbys or more-bark-than-bite like the Dursleys, but nearly-real, hear-about-it-on-the-news despicable. The Scroggins are terrible, never-should-have-had-kids parents who think nothing of abandoning their little girl by the side of the road and driving away. You do see, illustrated on the next few pages, that little sister Honey gets picked up by a mysterious truck full of lollipop-sucking kids, but her big sister Hope doesn’t know that, and spends the rest of the book wondering what happened to Honey and trying to get her back.

Plot aside, The Memory Bank has a fascinating storytelling method. Coman’s text and Shepperson’s illustrations are often paired with each other, as is usual in a chapter book—a page of text with a facing illustration. However, scattered frequently throughout the book are sections of illustrations with no accompanying text, pages at a time. While the prose of the book follows Hope exclusively, the illustrated sections often portray Honey with her newfound gang or Hope’s dreams about Honey. It’s a wonderful way to give us hints about what’s going on but without giving us definite answers, and as the story progresses you can see that the two sides of the story are interconnected.

But back to the plot: it’s just as fascinating as the medium and a perfect match. Hope eventually winds up at the Memory Bank, where memories come pouring in through a giant Receptor (they look like marbles) for sorting, collection and filing. Here she meets various workers, from Sterling Prion—a stiff, proper man who is doing very important work and has no idea how to handle children—to Violette Mumm, head of the Dream Vault who places much more importance on dreams than memories. The Memory Bank is a wonderful, fantastical creation and I loved every bit of it. In the meantime, the Bank is under assault from a mysterious army of saboteurs who apparently would like nothing more than to destroy history by wiping out memories, and Hope hears little bits and pieces about the War as she is shuttled around the Bank.

One thing I particularly appreciated about the book is the dialogue—the adults talk like real adults, using phrases and expressions and referring to things that children don’t quite understand fully; but then we get to see how Hope hears it—clinging to phrases that hold particular meaning for her. As a child who has never been loved by her parents, who spent her life trying to neither laugh nor cry, Hope begins to blossom as she interacts with other adults who pay attention to her and do more than shove her out of the way. It’s beautiful and sad at the same time.

And that’s the way with much of the book—the imagery is wonderful and the story does have a happy ending, but even that is tinged with the awfulness of the parents. Hope is a curious, inquisitive girl whose love for her sister is unquenchable—but she’s still only a child in an unfamiliar world. I found her to be a quite realistic character in a world of fantasy.

The book is intended for middle grade readers, and I do highly recommend this one—for kids and their parents. It’ll make kids appreciate their parents and it’ll make parents want to hold their kids tight.

Note: this review was originally written for GeekDad as part of my Stories About Girls series.

Fed to jonathan's brain | February 16, 2011 | Comments (0)


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