Hour of the Bees
Lindsay Eagar, Author
Candlewick Press, Fiction, Mar. 8, 2016
Suitable for Ages: 8-12
Themes: Family relationships, Heritage, Magic, Grandfather, Dementia, Forgiveness, Understanding, Loss
Book Jacket Synopsis: While her friends are spending their summers having pool parties and sleepovers, twelve-year-old Carolina –Carol — is spending hers in the middle of the New Mexico desert, helping her parents move the grandfather she’s never met off his dying sheep ranch and into a home for people with dementia.
At first Carol keeps her distance from prickly Grandpa Serge, whose eyes are impossibly old and who chastises “Caro-leeen-a” for spitting on her roots. But as the summer drags on and the heat bears down, she finds herself drawn to Serge, enchanted by his stories about an oasis in the desert with a green-glass lake and a tree that gave the villagers the gift of immortality — and the bees that kept the tree alive.
When Serge weaves details of his own life into his stories and tells her to keep an eye out for the bees he is certain will return to the ranch and end the century-long drought, she chalks it up to dementia. But as the thin line between magic and reality starts to blur, Carol must decide for herself what is possible — and what it means to be true to her roots.
Why I like this book:
Lindsay Eagar’s heartfelt and sensitive intergenerational story is about finding and honoring your roots. The language is strong and lyrical and captures the growing bond between Carolina (Carol) and Grandfather Serge. And there is an intermingling of Spanish and English that adds authenticity to the setting.
It also is a coming of age story for a 12-year-old Carol, who is the only family member interested in really getting to know her grandfather and is spellbound with his storytelling about a special tree that keeps the Spanish community safe, a girl who dares to leave and explore the world, and living forever.
The characters are realistic and believable. Carol is a curious, sweet, patient and reliable tween who is the only family member who respects and even admires her grandfather. She attempts to connect with him, even when he lapses into the past and mistakes Carol for her Grandmother Rosa. Grandfather Serge is a crusty old man who is battling dementia and won’t leave his run-down sheep ranch. He can spin a great story and Carol wants to hear them all.
The plot is original with moments of action and tension in the ravaged desert environment that will keep readers engaged. There are personality struggles that teens will relate to with Carol and her sister, Alta, and Carol’s father and Grandfather Serge. This magical story inside the story is beautifully written and one you won’t forget. I LOVED The Hour of the Bees. The ending is very satisfying and will capture readers’ imaginations.
This is a helpful story for teens who have grandparents suffering with dementia. It gives them insight into ways of communicating and connecting with loved ones. It is also an interesting story to read, discuss and write about because of the many layered themes.
Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.