Bren MacDibble, How to Bee, Allen & Unwin, May 2017, 212pp., $16.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781760294335
Peony wants to be a bee so she can climb trees to pollinate the fruit. Many years ago, there were real bees to do the job but now the bees have gone and children must take their place.
Life on the farm where Peony lives with her grandfather and sister, Magnolia is not easy. Food is scarce and the work is hard. Without the dedicated work of the bees and pests, no-one will survive. Despite the hardship, Peony is happily settled into the rhythms and routines of her country life with her little family and friends. But then, Peony’s mother returns.
How to Bee by Bren MacDibble is a story full of contrasts – delightful in its dialogue, thought-provoking in subject matter and, at times, quite harrowing as the horrors of this future reality is exposed. It is also a story of friendship and family – the bonds that hold us together through tough times and the ability to survive in situations not of our own making.
MacDibble hasn’t avoided any of life’s disappointments by skilfully crafting characters who often challenge us; those who are flawed and others who remain faithful throughout. She quietly introduces her young readers to a world where domestic violence, child abuse, phobias and environmental catastrophe have become the everyday.
Poverty and violence are never hidden in this book and neither is love, tenderness and kindness. It’s a must read for all ages – for the adults who shape the world we live in and for the children who will guide the future. How to Bee is an engaging read; a story of challenging concepts offered within a heart-warming tale.
Reviewed by Jennifer Mors