Monday, June 03, 2019

MMGM-Honeybees and Frenemies

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Always in the Middle and #IMWAYR day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

Kristi, Wientge. Honeybees and Frenemies
June 4th 2019 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Flor is looking forward to summer with her friend Brooke, since they are finally old enough to go around town by themselves AND they have season's passes to King's Island. When Brooke gets accepted to a music camp, Flor tries to be happy for her, but it does ruin her plans. Instead, she will be helping out at her family's struggling mattress store and dealing with her irritable high school age sister, Fran. Flor's grandfather died a few years ago, but had been a town leader. When the 50th anniversary of the town's Honeydale honey festival leads to an organizer who is corralling winners from previous years to compete in a new pageant, Flor is horrified that her past as a third grade winner has come back to haunt her. She's given the opportunity to back out, but when she realizes that would mean her former best friend, Candice, would be the representative, she decides to stay in. Candice had been very mean about Flor's win, claiming that the town needed to choose a person of color to win, and since Flor is keenly aware that her half Indian heritage makes her unusual in her small town, this creates a rift between them two. The girls end up working together for the contest, including a public service stint with Mr. Henry, a grumpy recluse who keeps bees and was a major force in the town. Candice is very knowledgeable about bees, and worries about the effects that bee problems will have on her father's fruit tree farm. The girls have to do a talent for the competition, and when they realize that their recorder and piano duet is a bit lame, they have Mr. Henry teach them how to "bee beard"-- have bees swarm and land on Flor's face. They don't let anyone know they have changed their talent, lest they be told they can't do it! When Flor's mother gets an offer to teach back in New Jersey, Flor realizes that the mattress business might not be able to be saved, and as much as she loves Honeydale, she might have to move. The festival is eventful, but Flor is able to finally make her peace with Candice and their past, and she is also able to work through issues with Brooke before moving on to her new life in New Jersey.
Strengths: There are some facets of small town, Ohio life that this gets absolutely perfect-- struggling downtown business area, local farming festivals, and close knit community. Flor's family works together well, but is struggling with a number of very common issues, such as economic instability. The glimpses we get of her supportive grandparents on both sides add some depth to the family dynamics. The discussion of issues with bee colonies is timely and a welcome addition to the book. Young readers will enjoy Candice and Flor's relationship the most, and it's well done that while they do make peace with their past, it's not an easy or quick process. The fact that everything does NOT turn out the way Flor would prefer it to makes this true to life, but I also appreciated that she took the changes with some good humor. I'm assuming that Honeydale is supposed to be a depiction of south western Ohio:the book mentions the Golden Lamb, which is a real restaurant in Lebanon, a tourist train, and King's Island, which is near Cincinnati.
Weaknesses: It did seem a bit odd that there would have been prejudice against an Indian family; 40 years ago there were Indian students in my small Ohio town, and it never seemed at all unusual to me. However, Ms. Wientge has more experience of this than I do, so I will assume she based this on her own experiences with her family.
What I really think: This was very enjoyable, and a great slice of small town life. There should be a lot more books involving fairs and festivals; they are such a big event in the life of a tween! It just made me sad that the problems with Candice were racially based. Definitely purchasing.


  1. It sounds nice, a just-right book for some readers, Karen. I grew up in a small town in my early years, think it will be fun to read this! Thanks!

  2. Thanks for this review. I'm from a small town in Canada with an Indian population. I don't think there is much racism at the school level, but there seems to be an uneasy truce at the adult level.

  3. This sounds like a perfect summer read for me: small town life, bees, friends and frenemies...

  4. My parents had bees when I was a teenager. This sounds like a fun book. I will try to pick it up. Thanks for the heads up.

  5. Thanks for sharing, Karen. I'm adding this one to my list!

  6. Very interesting premise. I also think this would be a good book for our #WomenReadWomen2019 theme - especially our quarterly theme right now that focuses on female bonds in literature. :)