Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Zinnia and the Bees by Danielle Davis

The last day of seventh grade couldn’t be worse for Zinnia Flossdrop. First, she must spend the day sitting in the principal's office for yarn-bombing the school mascot. At home, she discovers that, Adam, 18, her beloved brother, a talented magician and sometimes prankster-in-crime has left home, leaving no note or explanation. Her rather cold dentist/community activist mom doesn’t seem to care, replacing Adam with a sickly little dog. Seeking comfort, Zinnia buys herself a cone of her favorite ice-cream, which melts, falls out of the cone onto a table, and gets in her hair when she puts her head down for a good cry.

Little does Zinnia know that there is an industrial rental hive of escaped honeybees looking for a new home in order to live as free bees and pollinators as nature meant them to be. Yes, the bees find a new home in Zinnia’s abundant, wildly curly locks. And nothing she does gets them to move out. So, Zinnia does the only thing she can think of - puts on a sweatshirt and covers her hair with a hood.

Which naturally arouses the curiosity of visiting, plaid-wearing Birch, nephew of her next-door neighbor. Birch is a bird-watcher, the son of naturalists, and a solid, straightforward kind of kid, who sees and faces things head-on - luckily for Zinnia. He’s the only person who actually notices that there are bees living in her hair. Little by little, the two become friends, though it is a rocky road given Zinnia’s somewhat depressing situation(s), and Birch’s overly positive attitude. Together, they begin to search solutions to getting the bees out of Zinnia’s hair and into a proper hive, while also trying to find out where Adam might be and why he left so abruptly.  

In between Zinnia’s unfolding tale of woe, are short chapters narrated by one of the bees. That way, the reader learns why they decided to run away (with parallels to Adam’s reasons), and the difficulty of surviving until they find a new hive. The plight of the bees is told with both humor and pathos, so be prepared to suspend your disbelief and at the same time, learn some interesting facts about bees. 

Over the course of the summer, having a headful of bees and no big brother to fall back on teaches Zinnia some hard truths about herself and her feelings, and about what it means to be a sister, a daughter and a friend. 

At first, I thought the yarn bombing thing was kind of silly, but as I read and got to know Zinnia better, I realized it is the perfect metaphor for her - always covering up and hiding her real feelings from everyone around her - feelings that are holding her captive, and which naturally leads to all kinds of misunderstandings. 

On the other hand, the bees are looking for freedom, tired of being held captive as pollinators on demand. Their quest for freedom also leads to all kinds of misunderstanding - particularly with regard to Bee 641, who led them to Zinnia’s hair in the first place.

This is a debut middle grade novel for Danielle Davis. Though not without flaws, it is nevertheless an entertaining and well-done novel. I particularly liked the way she managed to weave in some real information about the plight of bees in today’s world through some nice use of magical realism. And I thought her characters were very interesting, and just quirky enough to work without going over the top. 

Zinnia and the Bees is a coming of age novel that is sure to please young readers.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley

1 comment:

  1. What an unusual plot! And wow, that mother really is cold if she doesn't even care about the brother leaving home. Hope it's all resolved nicely in the end. :)


Imagination Designs