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May 2018 Book of the Month
How To Bee is unlike any story I have ever read. The narrative voice is heartfelt and the author uses a mild form of dialect to bring both her characters and setting to life. Seen through the eyes of eight year old Peony, we see great hardship and brutality but also friendship, courage and determination. This is at times a harsh and truthful read, tackling difficult issues of environment, poverty and abuse, unafraid to hide the cruelty and yet finding within the beauty of nature, family and what really matters. It's a story about standing true to your dreams, and that with hard work, love and kindness we can help those dreams come true. It is also a reminder of how precious our natural world is and how we must do all we can to protect it for both us and future generations.
Peony is a pest who dreams of becoming a Bee. It's a simple life centred on the trees and family. In a world where pesticides have destroyed the bee population it now falls to children like Peony to save the harvest from pests and other dangers that may destroy their precious produce. The best workers who are light and quick become hand-pollinators. Armed with feather wands they climb from tree to tree pollinating the flowers in the hope that they will bear fruit. Peony lives on the farm with her sister Magnolia and Gramps. Her Ma lives and works in the city, coming home every now and then with cash and fresh bruises. At eight years old Peony can't understand why she doesn't stay, they live a simple life but they have everything they need. But Ma thinks Peony would be better off working in the city for cash so they can save and build a better future. Strong willed and courageous, Peony is determined to remain in the place she loves and earn her stripes to work as a Bee on the farm.
A Piece of Passion from Publisher Ruth Huddleston; ‘Peony, like all children today, is facing a world of depleting natural resources and frightening extinctions. Courageous, smart, kind and funny, you will want her on your side in the fight. Her fierce determination to preserve family and nature will inspire a generation to be bold in the world’s defence.’
A message from the author, Bren MacDibble; “I tell people stories about my childhood growing up poor on the land, and they always say, 'You should write a story about it!' But I love to write about the future not the past, and how do you even write about yourself objectively? It wasn't until I saw an article in the Huffington Post with the haunting pictures of human "bees" up in the pear trees in the Sichuan, hand-pollinating each blossom, that it all came together. THIS is what my main character does in the future! I've always been interested in food security and the treatment of farmers and land, and poverty traps, so these factors came together in a perfect storm of ideas. And How to Bee was born.
Peony, the main character, has no idea that there is anything wrong with her world. She negotiates it with skill, confidence and she likes living in a shack in an orchard. She has love, she has enough to eat and if she could just become a "bee" she'd be super-cherries happy. My hope is that young readers who are worried about bee loss and climate change (and they know so much more about this than we realise) read this from Peony's perspective and see that, even if the worst happens, the future doesn't have to be completely bleak. I also wanted to start a conversation about bee loss and what being poor means, not shut conversations down with fear. It's interesting that adults often find this book scarier than the younger readers do. Younger readers seem happy to trust Peony and follow her story. Adults bring their own knowledge and read it a little differently.”
Set in a future Australia in a time when there are no bees and children are employed to scramble through the fruit trees with feather wands, much like the pear farmers of Hanyuan in China are forced to do today. Peony wants to be a bee, a hand pollinator: she's light, she's fast, and even though she's a year too young, she's going to be the best bee the farm has ever seen...except when you're only 9, it's hard to get everyone around you to go along with your plan. A beautiful and fierce novel for middle grade readers, 'How to Bee' explores an all-too-possible dystopian social landscape with an intensely compelling and original voice.
In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Lovereading Kids Reader Review Panel members were also lucky enough to read and review this title. You can read their full reviews by clicking here.
‘By the time I was twenty percent in, I had forgotten I was reading a book, so engaged was I by this gorgeous, cheerful, caring, headstrong girl. … despite dealing with some pretty serious struggles, both personal and environmental, this is ultimately a story of love and hope for a better future.’ 100% Rock Magazine, Australia
‘The premise is both intriguing and important – with the world’s bees declining in numbers – and readers will cheer for Peony as she makes her way through some really difficult times, helping others along the way.’ Aussie Reviews
|Publication date:||3rd May 2018|
|Publisher:||Old Barn Books|
|Suitable for:||11+ readers, 7+ readers, 9+ readers|
|Recommendations:||Books of the Month|
|Other Categories:||Reviewed by Children|
Bren MacDibble was raised on farms all over New Zealand, so is an expert about being a kid on the land. She now lives in Melbourne with her family and a cheeky dog, works with gifted children, and teaches writing in further education. She particularly loves science fiction. 'How to Bee' is Bren's first children's novel to be available in the UK.More About Bren MacDibble