Wow, I didn’t see this one coming, but I certainly should have. Carolyn Coman is a Newbery Honor winner for her book What Jamie Saw, and Rob Shepperson has illustrated for New York Times and other big name newspapers. Together, they are dynamite!
In this heavily illustrated, but not quite graphic novel story, Hope and Honey are sisters, and unfortunate daughters of wildly neglectful parents. When their parents abandon little Hope on the side of the highway, the story splits, and we follow Hope through a series of fanciful illustrations, and Honey carries the bulk of the story. Honey, so depressed over the loss of the sister, moves to a cot in the garage and begins sleeping, chasing her beloved sister in her dreams. However, her constant dreaming and little interaction with the real world creates a deficit in her Memory Bank: she simply is not making enough memory deposits, and is summoned to the World Wide Memory Bank to correct the imbalance.
The WWMB is an incredible place: memories from all over the world funnel into the huge factory, and are polished, processed, ranked, and stored by a series of engaging workers. Another component is the Dream Vault, for, as the text explains, experiences in real life create memories, which then appear in our dreams: each part is essential to the whole. The Dream Vault is a fantastic room of pillows, hammocks, chaise lounges, and blankets of every description, where dreamers are free to dream, and the resulting dreams are collected dutifully in REMsacks.
Hope sees her sister in a series of dreams, and feels they are ever closer to being reunited. She never stops searching through the memories, yearning to find one of her sister’s. In the meantime, young Honey was picked up by a dump truck full of renegade children, bearing candy and spouting rhetoric: she has become a worker for the Clean Slate Gang, lead by Tabula Rasa, or Tabby, for short. The gang’s primary job is to encourage forgetfulness: these kids have been abandoned and feel that bad memories should be erased. They stage a grand sting, clogging up the giant memory funnel with lollipops, and the sisters are reunited at the Bank, and balance is restored to the world.
Though the description sounds like a little Dickensian, the actual story avoids any depressive tone. Hope is certain she will see her sister again, and readers never doubt the happy ending is forthcoming. I love the illustrations and the dream sequences, and adults will appreciate the clever references: Tabula Rasa as leader of the Clean Slate Gang, for instance. Enjoy this fast and fanciful read with your favorite dreamer! It was a Kirkus Review Best Book, and I think it deserves the honor.
Coman, Carolyn. Illus. by Rob Shepperson. The Memory Bank. Arthur A. Levine Books: New York, 2010. 263 pp.