The Queen Bee and Me

Bloomsbury. Mar. 2020. 288p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781681197517.
Gr 4-8–Seventh graders Meg and Beatrix have been best friends forever—or, at least since kindergarten. Knowing this has made life and school effortless for otherwise anxious Meg. Until last year, when Queen Bee Beatrix invoked The Freeze on her. Ever since, Meg has been nervous about taking the wrong step with Beatrix, especially since that step may include taking a special science elective she was hand-picked for instead of the dance class they’ve always taken together (which Meg is horrible at, anyway). Things only get harder when a new girl, odd-ball Hazel, moves into the neighborhood, becomes Meg’s partner in her science elective, and brings a literal hive of bees that Beatrix and her well-connected mother think are dangerous. When one of Beatrix’s family dogs is attacked and stung numerous times, Meg tries to keep the peace with Beatrix. Meg shares more than she should about Hazel’s past, and things get stickier than honey. While the three main players and their families default to white, the cast of secondary characters is diverse. Additionally, commentary on the importance of bees and the nature of girl “drama” versus “boys disagreeing” deftly graces the overarching friendship and familial plot lines, creating a truthful look at the complicated friendships of middle school and what happens when, forced to choose between a new friend and an old one, you choose yourself instead.
VERDICT Fully realized characters and high-stakes yet realistic middle school dilemmas with real-world applications make this a royal addition to shelves for upper elementary and middle school readers.

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