How to Bee is suggested for 8-12 year-old readers. It has also been referred to as a little novel, and I saw it as this, for that age plus those in their teens and even adults. The futuristic book has themes of the changing environment, rural versus urban life, the value of material wealth and what makes a family.
Peony and her sister Mags work on the farm as ‘pests’. They keep the insects away from the fruit trees. Peony aspires to be a bee, like other children there that pollinate the fruit trees manually, as actual bees are now extinct.
The girls live with their grandfather on the farm, and their mother appears occasionally, coming from the city where she works to make money for the family. One day she turns up with ‘the Ape’ and takes Peony with her back to the city so she too can work there.
Peony is thrust into a new world of a large house in the city, working as a maid alongside her mother for the Pasquale family. She builds a relationship with the daughter, Esmerelda, who seems to have everything, but has her own issues.
The circle of nature is well portrayed in this believable story where the reasons behind the vanishing of the bees and the famine that occurs are questioned. The haves and the have-nots in this scenario are depicted with authenticity, from the land and business owners, to those working on the farms to those begging on the streets.
Convincing characters complete this gem of a novel.