A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Lindsay Eagar's luminous debut, Hour of the Bees, intertwines the story of a magical tree and the people it sustained with the tale of a life-changing summer for 12-year-old Carol, who has issues of her own ("I don't want to be Mexican. Or American. Or Mexican-American. Or Caro-leeen-a. Just being Carol is hard enough"). There are plenty of heavy subjects, from the drought that's laid waste to the land to the deep rifts within families. A character is forcibly removed from his home "for his own good," and much of Carol's internal conflict comes from her growing sense of wrongness about this. People and animals, some beloved, die, and readers may want to keep a box of tissues handy for some scenes. There's a bit of mild language ("poo," "pissed," "crap," "sucks"), and in a desperate-times-call-for-desperate-measures scene, a tween character steals a car. But overall, the captivating narrative voice and the strong messages of love, family, courage, and not spitting on your roots carry the day.
What's the story?
Twelve-year-old Carol lives in suburban Albuquerque and is looking forward to a summer of hanging out with her friends before they all start middle school. But that's not what happens -- instead, her whole family heads for the middle of nowhere to a barren ranch owned by the grandfather she's never met. His health is failing, he's suffering from dementia, and her dad has hired a lawyer to have the old man declared incompetent so he can be put in assisted living and the ranch sold off. Armed with chirpy brochures from the assisted living facility, the family is determined to keep Grandpa Serge calm as they prepare the place for sale. Charged with keeping the old man out of trouble, Carol is startled when he tells her not to spit on her roots, and she quickly becomes fascinated with his stories about two century-old kids named Sergio and Rosa, a magic tree that used to live in the land, the lake that used to be there, and the bees who stole it away drop by drop. Everybody thinks it's just crazy talk when the old man calls Carol by her long-dead grandmother Rosa's name and raves about bees coming back and ending the hundred-year drought. But then, everywhere Carol goes, there are bees where none have been seen for decades.
Is it any good?
First-time author Lindsay Eagar's heartfelt, gripping, original novel finds its relatable, 12-year-old heroine connecting with long-lost family and centuries-old magic in rural New Mexico. HOUR OF THE BEES takes its young narrator and readers on a life-altering journey, as a summer on her dementia-stricken grandfather's arid sheep ranch puts her in touch with roots she didn't know she had and makes her see things from a new perspective:
"I'm surprised, too -- this sounds nothing like me. Caring about my roots? Worrying about what will happen to this ranch, this land? But try as I may to push this frustration away, my eyes sting with tears.
"I hide my face with a glance out the window. Dad and Mr. González are still pacing the pasture. Are they debating how much this ranch is worth? Probably not much to the rest of the world -- not much in dollars -- but it's Serge's home. The place where sheep tell time."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about being American and also having roots in an ethnic tradition. When do you want to celebrate your roots, and when do you want to just blend in? What stories do you like about kids dealing with these issues?
What do you think of the magical element in Hour of the Bees? How key is that to the story?
What do you know about bees? Do you know any beekeepers? Do you think you'd like to check out the hives, or are you worried about getting stung?
- Author: Lindsay Eagar
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Magic and fantasy, Brothers and sisters, Horses and farm animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Candlewick Press
- Publication date: March 8, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 14
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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