The Memory Bank by Carolyn Coman, illustrated by Rob Shepperson
This is a magical, wondrous book for middle readers.
Like Hugo Cabret, some of the story is told through striking full-page illustrations. The pictures heartrendingly depict the tender love of Hope for her little sister Honey and both girls’ despair when their “truly awful” parents abandon Honey by the side of the road after she gets messy and laughs one too many times. Lyrical words (with sophisticated vocabulary) tell how Hope gets banished to the garage and gives into her sorrow by sleeping her life away so she can be closer to Honey in her dreams. Before things get too distressing, Hope is collected by a good-hearted, big man who is in charge of pick-ups and deliveries for the mysterious World Wide Memory Bank (WWMB). Suddenly Hope is surrounded by adults kinder than any she’s known, and by a world more fascinating than anything she ever dreamed.
As Hope explores the vault of dreams, the nursery for first memories, and the extraordinary safe deposit boxes for Eternal Memories, her awe doesn’t overpower her determination to find her sister. Her dreams (shown in pictures) focus on Honey, while illustrated segments wordlessly reveal Honey’s frolics with a rollicking band of wild children and a loving, carefree woman leading the gang.
The plot allows Hope to be a hero and a child: innocent, brave, and finally, safe and loved. I would have read and reread this book as a kid; something about it reminds me of Momo by Michael Ende. It is appropriate for a read-aloud to younger listeners (as young as kindergarten), but will be treasured and enjoyed by imaginative readers throughout their elementary years-- and maybe rediscovered with a gasp of wonder much later in life. This is definitely one to inscribe to someone special! Scholastic gave me a free advance reader's copy, but I'm buying myself a hardcover because I love it so much.