How To Bee

“But how can Peony leave her beloved sister, grandfather, best friend Applejoy, and the orchard behind? And just for money? Don’t Ma know what’s important anyway?”

Peony lives with her Grandfather and older sister on a produce farm in a future, dystopian Australia. Since the famine, honey bees have been all but extinct which leaves young children to do the work of the pollinators. Peony and her sister work as pests on the orchard farm while their mom works in the city to earn cash for things that can’t be grown, like medicine. Peony is happy to live on the orchard and aspires to one day be a pollinator. So why should she be dragged by her own mother to the city? Isn’t she more useful to her family working on the orchard? Her mom thinks otherwise, however, and so despite Peony’s pleas, she’s taken away from everything she knows and loves to work as a servant for a rich urban family. Peony must figure out how to help her new friends while at the same time, find her way back to her sister and grandfather.

How To Bee’s coming-of-age story, set against famine, loss, and hardship caused by climate change, puts into perspective how the elimination of just one species (in this case, bees) can cause such a great change and disruption to everyday life (see keystone species, trophic cascade, interconnectedness). Taking place in the not-so-distant future where bees are millimeters from extinction and produce is treated like gold, the book seems to depict a potential reality rather than a far-fetched scenario. Since this story offers a realistic vision of the near future rather than a far-future dystopian setting, it can be powerful and eye opening for young readers who might otherwise dismiss the message. Additionally, Peony’s sense of hope provides a model for young readers to take charge and fight for what they believe in.

©2024 ClimateLit (Marina Lundell)

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Publisher: Groundwood Books, 2017

Pages: 213

ISBN: 978-1-77306-418-5

Audience: Questers (8-13)

Format: Novels

Topics: Agriculture, Bees, Climate Change, Extinction, Hope, Interconnectedness, Keystone Species, Pollinators, Trophic Cascade, Urban Environments