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How to Bee

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  1,037 ratings  ·  201 reviews
For 8-13 year olds - and all those who love middle grade fiction.
Peony lives with her sister and grandfather on a fruit farm outside the city. In a world where real bees are extinct, the quickest, bravest kids climb the fruit trees and pollinate the flowers by hand.
Will Peony's grit and quick thinking be enough to keep her safe?
A story about family, loyalty, kindness and b
Paperback, 213 pages
Published May 2017 by A & U Children
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Bren MacDibble A prize winner? It's picked up three major prizes, but I can't say what their criteria is, and each prize would have a different criteria anyway.
I thi…more
A prize winner? It's picked up three major prizes, but I can't say what their criteria is, and each prize would have a different criteria anyway.
I think it speaks to young readers because of its immediate intensive viewpoint and that the protagonist is brave and loyal and relentlessly pursues her goals. I think it also allows children to see a future changed by an environmental element and see people their age coping, and there's comfort in that.

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Average rating 4.17  · 
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 ·  1,037 ratings  ·  201 reviews

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Since the bees died out, people have taken over their role, with kids climbing up among the branches to pollinate the flowers. Because without bees, everything else starts to fall apart. Without bees, there would be no fresh fruits and vegetables, and the whole circle of life would be in trouble.
The farm’s full of circles. Bees, flowers, fruit. Pests, chooks, eggs. People, bees, flowers, fruit, pests, chooks, eggs, people…all overlapping circles. I don’t understand how it went before
Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A cute little story about a world in which there are no more bees. A dystopian fiction set after 'the great famine' in which farms are using whole families to work them. Children climb trees to do the work of the bees in pollinating the buds and scaring off birds and pests in an effort to produce fruit that they can neither eat, nor afford. The cities are full of starving people begging for a morsel while the rich live in their big houses behind their tall walls. Targeting young readers the stor ...more
Jul 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I expected to like this book - Bren is a talented writer and Allen & Unwin consistently produce quality books for younger readers. However, I didn't know I was going to love this book so much. It really hits all the right beats and it made me sob more than once, and laugh out loud at times, and uses its setting - a near future Australia that verges on dystopic but doesn't quite tip over the edge - to excellent advantage.

Our protagonist, Peony, is not even 10 years old, and one of the best thing
Jan 04, 2021 rated it did not like it
Trigger Warnings: Domestic abuse, gender stereotyping, reality doses.

Spoilers in review, be warned.

This was a book I had to read for a class assignment. Sigh..

I didn't enjoy this book. At all. It's a book about being your own individual self essentially. Poor world vs rich world dynamics. Growing up vs childhood.

The stupidity that led me to DNF this book (first DNF of the year woohoo! (note the sarcasm)) was the fact that the girl's mother keeps dragging her to the city and essentially kidnaps h
Kelly (Diva Booknerd)
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Nine year old Peony aspires to become a Bee, a member of the team of children who hand pollinate the orchards at the Goulburn Valley plantation. Peony and sister Magnolia live with their ageing grandfather while their mother migrated to the city, supporting the family to purchase medicine and trade for the ferocious winter season. The Goulburn Valley community is responsible for producing fresh produce for wealthy, urban residents.

Peony is a perceptive and ambitious young lady, agile and slight,
May 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
An exceptional example of the use of sophisticated language for the 8-12 age group. How to Bee is a compelling and immersive read with engaging characters. Set in a recognisable, plausible future world that is neither as unlikely nor terror-filled as one might expect from the cli-fi genre. I read it incredibly slowly to savour the poetry of the scene-setting and dialogue, my 13 year old powered through it at speed to find out what would happen to Peony and her aspirations of bee-hood. Very highl ...more
Angela Sunde
May 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mid-grade
I grew up on a vast orchard with acres of fruit trees, changing seasons and of course bees. This book brought back memories of the hard work we did as children from the age of five, carrying boxes, picking up prunings, wrap packing fruit, making up boxes, labelling etc. Although How to Bee is set in a near cli-fi future, the setting is authentic in it's specificity, the characters real and the family dynamics genuine.
The gentle unfolding of the story wraps the reader in a world where one small
Dimity Powell
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kids-lit
Honestly, when the back cover blurb advises you of the way you will feel after reading the story within, reservations begin to pool but in this instance, every word is true. Peony, the young heroine - and she really is in every sense of the word - in MacDibble's gripping middle grade novel, radiates tenacity, kindness and sass so loudly, her voice really will be resounding long after you read the last page.

This is a brave story set in Australia in the not-too-distant future but has global implic
Sharah McConville
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
'How to Bee' is a clever little story set in Australia, in the near future, where bees no longer exist. Children, like 9 year old Peony, work as bees and pollinate flowers by hand. This story is aimed at 8-12 year olds but I think teenagers would enjoy this story too. I won this book through Goodreads Giveaways. ...more
Ashlee Green
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My heart! Precious lil Peony Bee!

UPDATE: 05/01/2019
So after sitting and thinking for almost half a day about this book, I've realised my review doesn't encompass just how much I love this book. It's currently my second favourite book (which for me is a massive deal considering my top 5 hasn't changed for at least 5 years). This book is so sweet and innocent and pure and I love everything about it. I finished it just this morning and I already want to reread it.

UPDATE: 25/03/2019
Ok so I'm still t
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
How this is not a nominated Children's Book Week book I'll never know. A world where bees are extinct and poor children aspire to the job of "bees" - running through orchards with a feather duster, pollinating the trees to sell fruit to the out of touch, wealthy city folk.
A lovely little story about a young bee who gets dragged to the city and does all she can to get back home.
CutieChuchu(っ.❛ ᴗ ❛.)っ
This book makes me feel variety of emotions and it portrays a lot of important lessons in life. I feel like this story creatively encourage not only children but also everyone of all ages to take care of our environment before it's too late. Overall it's a good book.❣️ ...more
Jason Nahrung
Jun 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Anchored in an Australian climate change future where humans must hand-pollinate orchards, the story comes alive through the eyes of would-be human bee Peony. We see life on the orchard for the workers, and then how the city folk survive. It's a delightful read, not without its sad moments, but always leavened with humour and Peony's energy and belief in the power of family (and friends, or community) to see one through. A quick, enjoyable read for those older than the target market. ...more
Heather Gallagher
Sep 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fab-mg
This was a brilliantly refreshing take on a dystopian future. I loved the character of Peony who desperately wanted to be a bee - kids who pollinate flowers. There were lots of heavy duty topics in this story, including domestic violence and poverty, but it never felt heavy or preachy. I was really happy to go along for the ride with Peony - a ride that was surprisingly joyous!
in a world where real bees are scarce, children on farms scramble up trees and pollinate flowers by hand. all peony wants is to be a bee but she is stuck doing smaller tasks around the farm. she’s not unhappy with her life though—her grandfather and her sister love her and there is a lot of love and community surrounding her. then she is kidnapped and taken to the big city and she has to survive ...

this book was a very quick read and i loved the narrative voice. peony is a fierce heroine who is
Shane Harcombe
Aug 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Maybe 4.5 stars. I started this a few months ago, but had to put it aside to read the current crop of shortlist titles. This was excellent though and I was keen to return to it.

9 yo Peony lives with most of her family on a farm, in a future where bees have all but become extinct and children have taken their place, pollinating crops by hand. Life is hard on the farm, workers are only paid room and board and conditions are very poor. Her mum works in the city, in order to earn some actual cash, w
Sep 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
Determined, fiercely loyal and brave are words that come to mind to describe Peony, the 9 year old child who lives on a farm with her family and works as a 'pest' aka pest exterminator. Her goal is to become a 'bee' since honeybees have largely died out and human children now have to pollinate the fruit trees. The world is divided between "haves" and "have-nots" and the gulf between them is titanic. Peony gets dragged, unwillingly, to the city to help her mum Rosie, in her job as a domestic serv ...more
Krystelle Fitzpatrick
I feel like this book tried to do a lot with itself, but it lacked a lot of the detailing that I wish a story like this would have. If you plan to set a base in a post-apocalyptic world, it works better if that's incorporated into the actual novel, as opposed to just on the blurb. I thought that the many areas this tried to cover were admirable- especially some of the look-ins at domestic violence, child abandonment, and agoraphobia, but perhaps it was a little optimistic sometimes and tried to ...more
Nov 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: junior-fiction
There are no more bees, and so children have taken over their role of pollinating the flowers. 9-year-old Peony lives with her grandfather and sister on one of the fruit farms where she is employed as a 'pest', while their mother works and lives in the city, earning money to purchase medicine and other necessities. The duties of a 'pest' are to pick insects from the fruit, but Peony so longs to be a 'bee' and pollinate the flowers. Meanwhile, her mother has become pregnant to an abusive man, and ...more
Jayne  Downes
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
A great read for Intermediate age students. Thought provoking; set in Australia after a famine in a world without bees; Peony and other children climb the trees and do the work of the bees. The story also has a message about family relationships- Peony's Mother stays with a violent partner and the reader sees where this leads. ...more
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
I didn't know what to expect when I picked up this book, but it was on the recommendation of one of my trusted booksellers. I liked the concept straight away, and although I didn't always understand the motivations of the characters, I liked the general lay of the story. There is a kind of wholesomeness about it that's nice to see, even when things like death and loss are brought up.

I won't go into too much detail since I feel like even snippets will spoil it. Safe to say I enjoyed it, four sta
A Severs
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Children’s publishing seems to be experiencing a time of growth; the shelves of book shops are bursting with newly-published books for kids – so much so that it can be hard to choose which books to read. Some seem to garner much attention whilst others arrive quietly, waiting to be picked up and discovered.

‘How To Bee’ is new to the UK market but has already been doing very well in its native Australia. And it would be a real shame if it did not take off here too. Set in a future Australia where
Anna Davidson
Jun 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Loved this futuristic story about life where humans have to do the work of bees because bees are extinct. A lovely story of family, friendship and bravery. Loved the ending.
Julianne Negri

How to Bee is set in a future affected by climate change and where bees are extinct. It is told in the voice of nine year old Peony - a fierce voice that resonates honesty and will stay with you long after you finish the book.

Peony, her sister and grandfather live and work on a fruit farm where children are bees, scrambling along branches in order to pollinate the blossoms. Peony is a pest – she has to kill unwanted insects – but, deeply ambitious, she wants to be promoted to bee- a job for the
Trigger warnings: domestic violence, kidnapping, parental abduction, mental health, (view spoiler).

3.5 stars.

Well, this was a lot darker than I anticipated... I mean, I knew that it was set in a world where bees are extinct and children have to climb trees with bags of pollen to ensure that fruit and vegetables will still grow.

But really, that's a very small part of the story. It's instead about a young girl who desperately wants to be a Bee (as the chi
Aug 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-for-school
I had to read this for school, and for some reason this always makes me kinda not enjoy books as much. However, this book was really good! It covered some pretty serious topics, mainly domestic violence. It is a dystopian fiction about a world where bees are extinct, and flowers must be pollinated by hand. I enjoyed reading this book.
Jun 05, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars.

I enjoyed this book much more than I expected to enjoy it, after finding it quite difficult to get into at first, which was a pleasantly surprising turnaround. I've been very interested in how children's books handle environmental themes recently, especially in a future setting, so this new release jumped out at me instantly.

In a future world that's not so far from being our own, Peony lives on a fruit farm with her sister and grandfather. In a world without bees, Peony works as a pest
Oct 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
I thought this would be a cute MG story based on the description, but it never resonated with me. Being a book for younger humans, I didn't expect China Miéville-level world building but I felt the story tried to bridge too lengthy a span by giving us a future with (almost) no bees (which would be rather catastrophic in major ways for the entire planet's flora AND fauna...) crossed with a cute concept of human children pollinating trees in lieu of bees. A bee-less dystopia is hardly a paradigm t ...more
L-J Lacey
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
4 1/2 stars. I love when a book surprises me, and that’s exactly what “How To Bee” did. It’s a beautifully told tale set in the near future where bees are now extinct and children pollinate our plants. And although the world Peony lives in is extremely challenging, the novel is ultimately uplifting.

As a protagonist, Peony is a fantastically fierce 9/10 year old. Her love for her family is such a positive overall theme that it keeps you reading through the strained relationship Peony has with her
Linda Gratsounas
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: stage-4
As an English teacher, I read a lot of young adult and teen fiction. And at the moment I am really and truly over dystopia and its dark predictability. But this one came recommended by my local bookstore children's expert, and the cover intrigued, so here I am, reviewing a lovely little cli-fi book.

Simply, I loved it. It isn't formulaic or didactic. It isn't plot driven. It doesn't divide humanity in types or tribes, but instead recognises complexity and nuance. It is a human tale of family and
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Bren live in Kalbarri on the amazing Coral Coast of WA.

Her children's novel, How to Bee, is her first children's novel. Her next The Dog Runner came out in 2019 followed by Across the Risen Sea in 2020

All novels are packed full of adventures and feature resilient children living in environmentally changed futures.

Bren grew up on the land in NZ, and her work explores future challenges to the enviro

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