9+, Children's Fiction, Middle Grade Fiction

How to Bee by Bren MacDibble

Last year I discovered How To Bee by Bren MacDibble, a fascinating middle grade title that looks at the effects of climate change and poverty.  I felt it was insightful and dealt with important issues wonderfully.  This would make an interesting choice for classroom or book club discussion.  I originally reviewed this for Lovereading4kids but I’m delighted to share it again today in celebration of #WorldBeeDay.  I’m now excited to have a copy of Bren’s latest novel, The Dog Runner which was published earlier this month, also by Old Barn Books .  A review will follow for that asap.  For now lets get back to How To Bee.

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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.

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.

How To Bee shows that even the smallest person can make a big difference in a challenging world.

How To Bee was published by Old Barn Books on 3rd May 2018.

Visit Bren’s website here to find out more about this fascinating author.

Review coming soon for…

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