How to Bee by Bren MacDibble (Allen & Unwin)
In this fine dystopian novel set in a near-future world, bees have been destroyed by poisons, and children attempt to replace them by manually pollinating flowers to form fruit. Nine-year-old Peony is desperate to move up the hierarchy of farm workers and become a ‘bee’. Her heart’s desire is threatened when Ma kidnaps her to work in the city for the ‘Urbs’. Once there she feels displaced after having been productive and valued.
Life in the country seems relatively idyllic, swayed by nature’s rhythms and cycles. Sensory descriptions evoke a soothing, fertile setting, balanced with a rustic vernacular to create a down-to-earth tone. In contrast, figurative language reveals the shock of a city stuck in a dirty mist and its ‘raggy people’. Peony’s unschooled, direct voice remains constant, bridging the structural changes of moving from country to city and back again: one of several cycles explored within this rich novel.