How to Bee, is a captivating book with a young female protagonist set in a dystopian future where honey bees have all but disappeared. It is a story of family–both related and chosen, friendship, perseverance, courage, and ultimately the human instinct to survive against all odds.
We find our protagonist, 9 year old Peony, living with her sister and doting grandfather, on a fruit farm. Peony and her sister, Mags, are “Pests”–kids who find and eliminate pests from the fruit trees. Peony dreams of becoming a “Bee”–a human pollinator, so she can make more money for their family. The life depicted on the farm is sweet and full of love, but also not shy with the details of poverty and all that entails: hunger and lack of access to education and healthcare being the most glaring.
The story really sets off when Peony’s pregnant mother and boyfriend abduct an unwilling Peony to the city. Peony’s mother hopes that both of them can work as domestic help for her rich employers so that she can get enough money to move in with her boyfriend and start a new family with him. Peony plans her escape from day one, but stays long enough to help her new friend–the homeowners’ daughter, discover the courage to live her life.
In the city Peony is witness to the tender marital relationship between the homeowners, juxtaposed against the violence in her mother’s relationship. The city life is also a stark reminder of how the rich live off the labour of the poor. Sound familiar? This book is gripping mostly because, despite being billed as futuristic, it hits on themes that are very relevant today.
This is not your typical happily-ever-after ending, but a lot more real life ending, not, in and of itself, a bad thing. The hard topics are covered in light strokes, and there is enough humor and love to propel you through the book with grace.
*I would caution parents that there are some very hard topics covered in this book. Domestic violence, parental abandonment, and parental death are a few of the topics that you should be prepared to discuss with your kids as they read this book. You may want to pre-screen the book, or ideally read it with your more sensitive kids.
How to Bee
More books for this Age Group can be found here.
My thanks to Groundwood Books for providing a Review Copy of this book. All opinions provided herein are my own.
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Anjali (She, Her, Ms.) is the mother of twins, akin to being the mother of dragons. Hailing from Kenya, Anjali has made a career of graduating into recessions and pivoting her experiences to fit ever-shifting worlds. Currently residing in Columbia, MD, Anjali is an accidental homeschooler hoping to raise rebellious anarchists.
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