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How to Bee

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  700 ratings  ·  156 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 4.19  · 
Rating details
 ·  700 ratings  ·  156 reviews

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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

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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Esther King
Jun 21, 2020 rated it liked it
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.
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.
Wayward Fancy

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
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
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
Set in a post-famine Australia, Peony lives and works on a farm where children take the place of bees pollinating the fruit trees. Peony is a lot stronger than her name would suggest, and when her mother arrives to take her back to the city, Peony isn't going without a fight! This is a lovely book about family and friendship and being kind to people - it never feels preachy, this is just the way Peony behaves without even thinking. A lovely, sweet story for upper primary through to lower seconda ...more
Apr 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: middle-grade, arcs, 2017, oz-ya
Well that was a ride and a half.

3.5 stars.

I got an ARC of this from work, and I actually super enjoyed it. It was really well written, and Peony's voice was lovely - super ocker, really cute. I loved her relationships with AJ and Ez, and thought she was pretty badarse.
Loved the setting and the family dynamic (even though I wanted to shake her mother) and the environmental aspect too.

Highly recommend this lovely Australian middle-grade.
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: may, a2, 2018, bounce
Shades of Heidi in this fantastic read. Peony's a great heroine, and I love that even though an apocalyptic thing has happened - the bees are all gone - humans have adapted and things don't seem much worse than they are now. That's unusual for this kind of book.

A great read to accompany nature lessons.

Receiving an ARC did not affect my review in any way.
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
it was amazing
Katharine (Ventureadlaxre)
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2017
Kept me entertained for the flight from Amsterdam to Edinburgh - much obliged!
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Totally agree with the blurb - this is a beautiful and fierce novel, written for children and young adults, but with clear messages for all readers. 'How to be' is set in a time where real bees are extinct, amd where the quickest and bravest kids climb the fruit trees and pollinate the flowers by hand.
This is the story of Peony, of a loving family living in hard times, of a mother who rightly or wrongly thinks she is doing the right thing.

A great read aloud for older children.....
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NZ Intermediate S...: How to Bee 2 14 Nov 02, 2018 12:38AM  

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Bren travels Australia in a bus, with her family and crazy little dog.

Her children's novel, How to Bee, is her first children's novel. Her next The Dog Runner came out in 2019.

Look for her next novel in 2020: Across the Risen Sea.

Bren grew up on the land, and her work explores future challenges to the environment, in particular as it relates to food security.

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