How to Bee is set in a world where famine has changed the way crops are grown. Bees are extinct in the wild. Many people are living without food, shelter or safety. They welcome the chance to work on farms in exchange for food and a place to build a shed to live in. Peony has grown up on a farm. She lives with her Grandpa and sister, while her Mum travels to the city to earn money for their future.
Peony works as a ‘Pest’, running through the orchard, collecting bugs and feeding them to the chickens. A quick thinker, and hard worker, Peony is working hard to become a ‘Bee’. Bees are the quickest, bravest kids, who climb high into the fruit trees to pollinate the flowers by hand.
She is content with her life and values her family and the community around her who love each other and work together to survive. Peony sees her future on the farm with the people she loves, but her Mum is trying to take her away from it all to earn money in the city. There is a battle of wills as Peony’s Mum attempts to give her the opportunity to escape to a ‘better life’ and Peony tries to bring her mum home to the family.
How to Bee is dedicated: To all the kids who face hard times with courage, and stand tall for the ones they love. This sums up the essence of the book succinctly. It deals with themes of family, poverty, social hierarchy, domestic violence, and extinction.