Hour of the Bees
By Mary Eisenhart,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Tween finds herself and her roots in gripping magical tale.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
As Carol/Carolina discovers her roots, readers will pick up conversational Spanish phrases and details of Mexican-American culture, as well as a vivid sense of the New Mexico desert landscape.
Hour of the Bees offers strong messages about love, family, belonging, and not being afraid to live. As Grandpa Serge often says, don't spit on your roots. Find your own way of being, but never forget where you came from. The stories of the magical, life-sustaining tree offer many lessons on how living beings sustain one another in mutually beneficial relationships.
Positive Role Models
Carol/Carolina, 12, invites a lot of empathy as she deals with heavy family responsibility instead of spending the summer with her friends. She's strong and hardworking, and she does her best to take care of both her baby brother and her possibly crazy grandfather; when she does questionable things, like steal her sister's car, she has a very compelling reason. Her grandfather may be suffering from dementia, but he seems to know his own mind pretty well and tries to make his son, Carol's father, love the land as he does. The whole family is strong and loving, despite a lot of bickering and some deep misunderstandings.
Violence & Scariness
The greatest act of violence here involves tearing Grandpa Serge from his lifelong home "for his own good" and treating him like less than a full person (he's elderly and in failing health, and he has dementia, but he knows and loves a lot more than he's given credit for). Once in the assisted living facility, he's drugged into a drooling stupor to keep him quiet. Rattlesnakes sometimes bite characters. Characters find the mangled corpse of a sheep killed by a predator. In one of the intertwined stories, chopping down a tree has dire consequences.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Carol's older sister is the child of their mother's first marriage. She sometimes sneaks off to meet her boyfriend.
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Occasional "poo," "pissed," "crap," "sucks."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The assisted living center where Grandpa Serge is held against his will drugs him to keep him in a stupor.
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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.
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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
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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