My second book for the 48 Hour Book Challenge was another quick read, finished in about 50 minutes. The Memory Bank is an illustrated chapter book, along the lines of the Invention of Hugo Cabret, in which portions of the story are told through pictures. It's an over-the-top story reminiscent of Roald Dahl (with aspects of Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). It's a fun, imaginative story, with wonderful visuals.
Hope Scroggins is devastated when her parents abandon her younger sister, Honey, by the side of the road. They declare that they now only have one child, and never want to hear her sister's name again. Hope retreats to a world of dreams, spending all of her time asleep, where she can at least dream about her sister. (Her parents respond to this by selling her day clothes at the thrift store.)
As a result of the excessive dreaming, Hope is eventually hauled off to the World Wide Memory Bank (WWMB), and asked to account for her deficit of new memories. There, she learns of the conflict between the and the Clean Slate Gang, a group that seeks to destroy memories, and the WWMB, guardians of memories. Meanwhile, Honey's story is shown via multi-page illustrated sections. The reader can gradually see how the stories will intersect.
Even young readers will clearly get that this is a melodrama, and not to be taken too seriously. The utter unsuitability of Hope and Honey's parents to be parents is made evident from the start (I was reminded a bit of the parents in Lois Lowry's The Willoughbys, and, of course, of Matilda Wormwood's parents). Hope is touchingly grateful for the tiniest bit of attention paid to her by the people she encounters through the WWMB.
Shepperson's black and white pencil illustrations are detailed and engaging. The trappings of the WWMB are delightfully fantastic, while the human characters display heart and hope. This would be an excellent book for a relatively new reader, with pictures telling part of the story (not just illustrating the story as an afterthought), even as the text uses some relatively advanced vocabulary.
The use of pictures is particularly helpful in conveying Hope's dreams. I mean, aren't dreams a series of pictures anyway? Why should one try to ever convert them into words? The hybrid word/picture format is perfect for this story.'
Coman's writing style is deadpan and quietly entertaining. Like this:
"Springing up on her cot, she asked, "Who are you?" It would never have occurred to Hope to call for help, as only her parents were home. (Page 42)
""Precisely," Sterlling said. "With nearly daily incidents of vandalism and trickery occurring, we cannot be too careful. Believe you me, it's no laughing matter," he continued, even though no one was anywhere near laughing. "I'm sure you can understand our position."
Hope was glad he was sure." (Page 101)
"It had all happened so fast! She could have been run over, mowed down. She could have died! And the instant she had that thought, Hope realized just how much she wanted to live! To find Honey! To eat more coffee cake!" (Page 166)
The Memory Bank has creative world-building, entertaining text, an appealing heroine, and the perfect illustrated format. It is pure fun for middle grade readers.
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: October 1, 2010
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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