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Zinnia and the Bees (Capstone Young Readers) Hardcover – August 1, 2017
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About the Author
Danielle Davis grew up in Singapore and Hong Kong and now lives in Los Angeles where she reads, writes, and roller skates. She's earned an M.A. in Literature and Creative Writing and her short stories have been published in literary magazines. She's had the privilege of teaching English to middle school and community college students and currently volunteers with literary orgainzations in L.A. Zinnia and the Bees is her first novel.
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So I was both fascinated and horrified by the description of the cloud of bees following twelve-year-old Zinnia from an ice cream parlor. Author Danielle Davis essentially described my nightmare come true. But when the bees catch up with Zinnia, unlike in my nightmares, the bees don’t sting her. Instead, 4,000 bees take up residence in Zinnia’s hair (I’m not sure that’s much better than being stung).
Zinnia needs to figure out how to get rid of the bees in her hair AND how to find her missing older brother. She feels completely lost and doesn’t know where to start. But then she meets Birch, who is visiting his uncle for the summer. Birch offers to help find a solution for the bees. Through her time with Birch, Zinnia learns about friendship and about herself.
This is a fantastic debut novel by Ms. Davis. She explores emotional themes of parental loss, family relationship struggles, former friendships, and personal growth with an excellent touch for the middle-grade reader. Zinnia and the Bees is a tough book to put down (another set of late nights . . .). I received an advanced reader copy of the book so that I could provide an unbiased review.
The bees, normally creatures that I wouldn't want to be near because I don't care for insects, became sympathetic characters here. The group was formally transported from crop to orchard and so on as professional pollinators. Never having been in a wild hive or having had to fend for themselves, when a car accident sets them free they have to make the best of a bad situation. In a town with few trees, worker Bee 641 is the bee elected to find a new place to go and follow their collective dreams, taken from stories passed down from bee generation to bee generation. The bad part? That new home is Zinnia's hair, with a smear of mint chocolate chip ice cream to attract her new "friends".
Zinnia also has her fair share of problems. Her mom doesn't seem to understand her or her knitting/yarn bombing tendencies, activities that she deems "non-useful". Her brother, whose interests also lie in the arts, has left after escalating arguments with their mother about his future. Add this to the loss of her closest group of friends and her summer is looking pretty dim.
Reading Zinnia's story, her working through her problems and her summer days, including reluctantly making friends with her neighbor's nephew and walking her mom's new dog, was always interesting. Zinnia has a pleasant voice, even as she was navigating a difficult time. Her interest in knitting and yarn bombing made her very relatable to me and, I think, somewhat unique. I almost never see main characters that knit like she did; artistic skills like drawing and painting seem to be more popular.
There were alternating chapters and the others not told from Zinnia's first person perspective were told from that of the bees. That was fascinating because, as I mentioned before, I'm not a fan of insects. Reading the activity I've seen going on in the real world from a more personable perspective made it a unique experience. They were friendly creatures, telling the story of going from crop to crop until the day they break free and have to figure out what to do with their new found freedom. Going off "family" stories and, eventually, Zinnia's kindness and knitting know-how, they find their place and worker Bee 641, originally mocked for her lack of hive finding abilities, redeems herself and is revealed as the voice of the bees from the beginning.
Zinnia learns a lot about grieving, about distancing herself from her friends while trying to cling too tightly to another important person, and about being true to yourself, even at the risk of losing everything. From the cover and from the description, one might not think that this novel has as much depth as I discovered it did, but rest assured that Danielle Davis did a masterful job of communicating important values while weaving a magical story.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Most recent customer reviews
ZINNIA is having a rough time.Read more