The Memory Bank

Book Review

“Hope and Honey Scroggins were the closest of sisters, had been right from the start. Truly, they were lucky to love each other so!

“Not so lucky when it came to their parents, though.

“Mr. and Mrs. Scroggins were simply awful people.”

These parents soon prove to be so awful that they make the parents of Matilda seem somewhat decent. So awful that they randomly leave Honey on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, and tell Hope simply to “forget her.” Her little sister Honey was the only good thing in her life, so of course it is impossible to forget her. So, left to herself, Hope does nothing but sleep, and in her dreams she tries to find her sister.

Then one day Hope receives an unusual letter stating that her memory account is woefully out of balance, and soon she is picked up by a repo man of sorts and taken to The Memory Bank, a strange quasi-magical institution where all people’s memories, in the form of glowing physical globules, are catalogued and carefully stored. Hope has not been living and creating memories for herself, and so the head of the bank is greatly concerned. Hope is taken in by people at the bank, and hopes her access to the memory bank will help her find her sister, all while the bank takes measures against a rogue organization that is threatening to destroy memories.

Meanwhile, we learn through parallel, illustrated interludes that Honey has been adopted by a band of laughing children led by a teenage girl who perform “terrorist” activities against the memory bank, such as dumping candy into the memory receptacles with a dump truck.

Much like the illustrations in The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Rob Shepperson’s drawings for Coman’s novel are as essential to the advancement of the plot as the written narrative, making this a truly collaborative work. It is one of several recent titles (along with The Dreamer) that show a growing and welcome trend towards exquisitely illustrated children’s novels.

There are a lot of things to like about this book. The illustrations are fun and generous in their frequency, making this a fast-moving but satisfying read for young readers. There is a surreal, dream-like quality to the book that is appealing, somewhere at the intersection of Roald Dahl and Kate DiCamillo. Unfortunately, like most dreams, it doesn’t seem to quite come together or make complete sense once you are finished with it. Is it an allegory that I haven’t made sense of yet? Is it a fun fantasy? Is it just a random dream? Although appealing, the book ultimately doesn’t deliver the punch that it seems it should, and I think it will leave young readers scratching their heads.

The Memory Bank
Written by Carolyn Coman, Illustrated by Rob Shepperson
Arthur A. Levine / Scholastic
288 p.
ISBN: 9780545210669
Release Date: October 1, 2010

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