Title: The Memory Bank
Author: Carolyn Coman and Rob Shepperson
Illustrator: Rob Shepperson
Pages: 379 pages
Publisher/Date: Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., c2010.
Hope’s father wasn’t kidding. He never kidded.
Moments before, he had ordered Honey–Hope’s little sister, a skim coat of bubble gum covering most of her small face — out of the car.
“I’ve told you a thousand times,” he said. “No laughing.”
Now, as he stepped on the gas and the car lurched back onto the highway, the first words out of his mouth were, “Forget her.”
A cyclone of dust rose up in their wake.
Dumbfounded, Hope stared out the rearview window at her sister. For a few seconds she couldn’t even make out Honey’s little body in the swirl of debris their car wheels had kicked up. By the time she could, Honey had already receded. [...]
Hope begged her parents to turn around, to go back.
Onward they sped. (13-15, 24)
Hope’s life is turned upside down when her uncaring parents leave her little sister on the side of the road and get rid of all her things. Told never to mention Honey again, Hope spends her days crying and sleeping in the garage, dreaming of Honey. She receives a summons to the World Wide Memory Bank, where her memory deposits have shrunk to almost nothing but her vivid dreams have caught the attention of Violette, whose in charge of the Dream Vault. Reluctantly allowed to stay until her accounts balance out, Hope begins to suspect that the sabotage taking place at the Bank might have some connection to her sister’s whereabouts. Will the sisters reunite, or will the war and the mischief spread and split them apart?
I was intrigued by the concept and enthralled by the story until the very end. The open ending migh encourage discussion, but readers like myself might also be a little disappointed by the ending which doesn’t explain very well the source of the problem and glazes over the almost sappy happy ending. That being said, I think for librarians looking for a summer reading themed read (dreams? really?), it might make a really cool choice for book discussions around the Summer Reading Theme this Year of “Dream Big–Read”.
The Memory Bank is a place where memories are sorted and catalogued, awaiting the time to be returned to the people they originated from. The Dream Vault is the same for dreams, and there’s an innate tension between the woman in charge of the Dream Vault and the man in charge of the Memory Bank, since memories can’t be made while someone is asleep and dreaming, and vice versa. That’s nothing compared to the tension caused by the Clean Slate Gang, who is sabotaging the Bank.
Fans of Brian Selznick’s books will almost certainly enjoy the alternating narrations, as Honey’s is told almost entirely in pictures while Hope’s story is told in words with accompanying illustrations. That’s probably why illustrator Rob Shepperson shares the author credit on the cover as his impressive artwork really conveys emotions and moves the story along. I hesitate to say that he does a better job than Coman, whose tasks it is to explain everything. When Coman finally takes over Honey’s story things become just slightly clearer, but I loved the pictures of the Clean Slate Gang and their dump truck of lollipops.