Published: 1 August 2017
Publisher: Capstone Young Readers
Category: Middle Grade/Fiction/Magical Realism
A colony of honeybees mistakes seventh-grader Zinnia’s hair for a hive ― and that’s the least of her problems. While Zinnia’s classmates are celebrating the last day of seventh grade, she’s in the vice principal’s office, serving detention. Her offense? Harmlessly yarn-bombing a statue of the school mascot. When Zinnia rushes home to commiserate with her older brother and best friend, Adam, she’s devastated to discover that he’s gone ― with no explanation. Zinnia’s day surely can’t get any worse . . . until a colony of honeybees inhabits her hive-like hair! Infused with magical realism, Danielle Davis delivers a quirky, heartfelt debut, exploring both the complex life of a young loner and a comical hive of honeybees. Together, these alternating and unexpected perspectives will touch anyone who has ever felt alone, betrayed, or misunderstood.
Rating: 4 Stars
Zinnia is a young girl whose mother is overbearing, her brother has disappeared under the pressure, and a colony of bees has made their new home in her hair! This middle grade novel has just the right amount of magical realism and teachable moments to make it a good read for not just the 9-12 year old age group, but for others as well.
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.