I’m hereby declaring it Latin@ week here at alibrarymama and following yesterday’s review of Stef Soto, Taco Queen with another book starring a Latina middle schooler. This is a subtly magical book for older middle grade readers, one of the many books that I read during Cybils season and got behind on reviewing.
Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar. Candlewick, 2016
Carol is forced to spend her summer on her grandfather’s dried up ranch in the desert of New Mexico. He suffers from advancing dementia and her parents have decided it’s time to get the house ready to sell and move him to a nursing home. Carol is resentful of not having her planned summer of swimming and shopping with friends, and being called CaroLEENa by her grandfather. babysitting her baby brother and helping to pack up the house are no kind of substitute. Her older sister Alta keeps finding ways to leave, adding to Carol’s bad mood.
But, like Cat in Ghosts, this summer is a catalyst for Carol learning more about her heritage and the Mexican-American culture her birth family hasn’t really connected to. (I am not tagging it for Read Diverse, because I was unable to find out if the author has any Mexican heritage herself.) Her grandfather Serge, incoherent with almost everyone except for shouting matches with Carol’s father, tells Carol stories of the bees that took the lake away and vanished forever, leaving the village in drought ever since. Carol doesn’t believe the story, especially since bees seem to follow her everywhere. Slowly, slowly, Carol connects more with her grandfather and pieces together the unbelievable truth behind the old stories and the forgotten magic.
I hesitate to call this magical realism, because the magic is definitely real. But those coming in looking for large doses of magic are going to be disappointed, because the magic is all in the stories until the very end of the book. This is perfect for those who like slow, lyrical explorations of character, the complications of family and coming to terms with old age. That sadly makes me feel that its audience for middle grade readers is going to be small, but those few readers will love it.
The lyrical magic with bees reminds me of Robin McKinley’s Chalice, a full historical fantasy with a magical beekeeper.