How To Bee

Groundwood/House of Anansi. Mar. 2020. 224p. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781773064185.
Gr 4-7–An Australian import of speculative fiction in which bees no longer exist, and therefore children are left to pollinate the trees and flowers for fruit. Peony is one such girl, living on the farm with her sister Magnolia and their grandfather while their mother lives in the city, known as the Urbs. Peony’s goal is to become a full-fledged bee, and she works hard until her mother comes to take her away against her will. Not only is she separated from her beloved grandfather and sister, she’s living in a new home and working for a family. Yet, Peony’s upbeat attitude allows her to make the best of it until she can return to the farm. MacDibble uses imaginative language to describe a futuristic world that is only momentarily disorienting. Otherwise, the coming-of-age narrative tracking Peony’s journey is deeply felt—especially when her mother puts her in dangerous situations where she must persevere. Eventually, the darker story ends on a hopeful note. Similar shifts in the setting from farm to city and back again move the narrative quickly toward a bittersweet resolution that fittingly ties up loose ends.
VERDICT Take a chance on this middle grade tale of courage, with a unique storyline that magnifies a realistic threat to one of nature’s most helpful insects.

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