Monday, July 11, 2016

Children's Book Review: Hour of the Bees (Grades 4-6)

Hour of the Bees
Lindsay Eagar

Carolina’s story begins in familiar territory for many of us. She’s a disgruntled tween who’s forced to spend the summer with her family instead of her friends. She is brought face to face with her New Mexican heritage when her parents uproot everything to help her grandfather transition from his beloved ranch to a nursing home. She’s nervous about meeting her grandfather for the first time and terrified that her friends will forget her. What in the world is she going to say to a grumpy old man who is losing his grip on reality? An age-old rift between Carol’s dad and his father only makes the situation weirder. So much for summer fun... The last thing Carolina expects is to form an instant bond with her Grandpa Serge. His dementia recedes as he tells her stories about a magic tree and an immortal village in a land that’s steeped in wonder. Can the crusty, old dust heap that they’re cleaning out truly be the site of so much magic? Carolina starts to question her own sanity when she sees the impossible bees that her grandfather obsessively mentions. Is dementia contagious? Carolina is drawn into her family history through her grandfather’s magical world, no matter the consequences.

This book was SUCH a great summer read. The author does a wonderful job of making the reader feel like they’re part of the story. The imagery describing the New Mexican desert, the derelict ranch, and the oasis of Grandpa Serge’s story drew me in with simple and powerful language. It was easy to follow and easy to feel the buzzing of the bees and the sting of desert air. Carolina is a likable and sympathetic character, right on the cusp of middle school. Even though she was reluctant to embark on this journey, she embraced her duty as sister, daughter, and granddaughter with determination and grace, but in a totally relatable way. By the end of the book she becomes a daring young woman, worthy of being admired.

I know this is a cliché, but it’s true—I laughed and cried throughout the whole book! This title would be at home with everyone from middle grade readers to adults of all ages. There’s something for everyone: adventure, drama, mystery, tween angst, and a great introduction to magical realism. This is a beautiful story about growing up and embracing your roots.

Mollie McFarland
Springville Road Regional Branch Library

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