Sunday, March 01, 2020

The Queen Bee and Me

McDunn, Gillian. The Queen Bee and Me
March 3rd 2020 by Bloomsbury Children's Books
Copy provided by the publisher

Meg has been friends with Beatrix since they were young, but there have been times recently where their friendship has been strained. Beatrix has a going-getting real estate agent mother and a more luxurious life style, and she has recently taken to thinking that Meg is a bit babyish. It doesn't help when quirky new girl, Hazel, moves to town and is invited to Beatrix's family party, where she doesn't make a good impression. Meg likes Hazel but knows too well that Hazel's acne, over-the-top fashion sense, and hippy, chicken raising mother are not going to endear her to Beatrix. Meg tries to avoid Hazel, but gets assigned to work on a project with her in the science elective that Meg chose rather than the dance class Beatrix wanted her to take. Meg wants to choose a cute mammal to study, but Hazel tells the teacher they want to study bees. Meg has a lot of anxiety, and such a fear of bees that she will occasionally pass out when exposed to them. The two try to get along, and Meg tries to keep the peace with Beatrix. This becomes impossible when Beatrix's mother goes to the town council to get them to ban Hazel's bees, and Meg feels it is more important to fight for her new friend than to give in to the demands of her old one.
Strengths: Losing at least one friend. This is definitely what the middle school experience is like, and the tension between Meg and Beatrix is spot on. While we see moments where their original connection is on display, such as when they are walking dogs for neighbors, we also see a lot of times where Beatrix wants Meg to be somebody else. Hazel is that middle school student who feels it is more important to be herself than to blend in with the crowd, but Meg knows that blending in is a much more comfortable way to go. Beatrix is, of course, that person who sets the standards and MAKES everyone follow her. The inclusion of bees, as well as a light touch of dealing with anxiety, add a couple of more levels of interest to this solid middle grade novel.
Weaknesses: I know the trend is to encourage students to "be themselves", but really, that's about the worst advice anyone could have given ME when I was in middle school. Hazel is a bit over the top.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and I appreciated that it tackled serious middle school issues while still remaining a fairly happy and upbeat read. Add this to Honeybees and Frenemies as a book that addresses social AND environmental concerns.

Ms. Yingling

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