Review Blog

May 08 2017

How to bee by Bren MacDibble

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Allen and Unwin, 2017. ISBN 9781760294335
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Bees, Dystopian fiction, Poverty. Peony just wants to be a bee. She sees the others fall from the branches of the fruit trees where they pollinate the flowers, and knows the foreman will want two replacements the next day. Only ten years old, she is quick and nimble, and she is thrilled to be able to help her grandfather in keeping their little family fed. But her mother arrives from the city with promises of better times if Peony will only come with her. She struggles and runs away, but is eventually recaptured and once in the city, sees her mother's life for what it really is, a menial servant to the rich.
This is an eye popping addition to the genre looking at where our society is going. The huge gap between the haves and have nots is wider than ever, with one simply slaves to the other, with no power, money or housing, while the use of pesticides has wiped out the bee population and so flowers must be pollinated manually by the farm workers, the lowest of the low. These people live in sheds on the properties with no hope for ever making a better life for themselves. But for Peony this is where her heart lies, with her family.
Peony learns her new role in the city but yearns for home. In becoming friendly with the housebound daughter of her employers, she agrees to teach her to be brave, while Ez will show her how to leave the city. Together the two plot Peony's escape, Ez becoming more confident as each day goes by.
When Peony finally escapes she must hitch a ride in a truck returning to Goulburn Valley, and then must walk thirty kilometres to their farm.
Her tenacity shines through, her strength of character and purpose draw her on to reach her goal, and with a new friendship and a change in the life of bees, finds that the future looks bright.
This charming story with the determined Peony at its heart will enthrall middle school readers.
Fran Knight

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