How to Bee by Bren MacDibble

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How to Bee by Bren MacDibble

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: A warm and inspiring tale of life in Australia thirty years after the bees died, with a funny, outspoken and determined heroine. You'll feel glad and sad while you read it, and afterwards you'll find yourself thinking hard about what we must all do to protect our precious, fragile world.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 208 Date: May 2018
Publisher: Old Barn Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781910646441

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Imagine a world without bees. Not just how nice it would be to eat jam sandwiches in the garden without having the little yellow and black torpedoes attacking you - really imagine it. No bees, no pollination. No pollination, no new plants. No new plants, no food. Simple. So, if those pesky chemicals we use kill off practically every bee in the world, humans will have to take over their work. Children, in fact, because you need small, nimble fingers to work those tiny feathers full of pollen into the flowers and turn them into delicious fruits.

And this is Peony's life. She's only nine when the book opens, so she's not quite old enough to be a bee yet: she spends her life killing bugs and caterpillars so the apples can grow big and sweet for the rich folk who still live in the towns. She's poor, she works hard, and the only education the children here get is a few lessons broadcast over speakers in the orchards, but she's happy living in her shed with Gramps and her sister Magnolia, and she wouldn't change a thing. Her Ma, however, sees things differently: she's left the two girls with Gramps and gone to the city as a servant in the hope of earning enough money to give them all a better life. It's when these two worlds collide that the problems really start.

This is a very good story on several levels. Firstly there's the character of Peony herself: irrepressible and headstrong, but also generous and kind. When she encounters a city girl with problems she doesn't hesitate to put her own troubles aside and help. And then there's the fascinating premise: a world just like ours, but without those wonderful little creatures who keep us alive. It could so easily happen, too - famine and catastrophe may be just one pesticide away. The author presents the warning clearly, but without traumatising her readers: the story is warm and humorous, and by the end of the book there are definite signs of better times ahead.

There are some good books around these days on ecology and the perils of not looking after our little blue planet carefully, many of them , needless to say, in the fantasy section of the bookshelves. One of the best has to be The Last Wild by Piers Torday and its sequels, about a boy and the few surviving animals. They've not only learned to talk, but to express their opinions forcefully and at length if need be! Then again, if it's the character of the fiercely determined Peony which attracted you to this book, you're equally well served. Readers will enjoy meeting the unusually-named Neverfell in A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge, a girl as loyal and stubborn as they come in a bizarre world where people never use their faces to express their emotions. And then there's Freya, in The Sleeping Army by Francesca Simon. Despite the fact that Wodenism, not Christianity, is the official religion of Britain in this excellent story, Freya is so determinedly ordinary (in fact, her idea of excitement is trying a new vegetable) that when she's carted off to Asgard on the traditional save-the-world-and-all the-gods quest, her reaction is to simply throw up. Which, if we're honest, is probably what we'd do.

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Buy How to Bee by Bren MacDibble at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy How to Bee by Bren MacDibble at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy How to Bee by Bren MacDibble at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy How to Bee by Bren MacDibble at


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