Set in an Australia of the future where there are no bees and children have to do the job of pollinating the crops, Peony is desperate to be a 'bee', one of those children responsible for pollinating with a feather wand instead of being a 'pest', killing insects that threaten the fruit. Living on the farm with her grandfather and her sister, Magnolia, she is content with her tough, but happy life.
Things change, however, when Peony's mother returns from the city where she works, determined to take Peony with her so her daughter can earn 'real' money. Not wanting to leave Gramps and Magnolia or the farm life she loves, Peony fights to stay. However, her mother returns, kidnapping her and taking her to a very different life in the city.
Peony is tough, loyal, stubborn and determined. Living a tough life with very little in the way of material objects or comforts, she is happy with what she has – the family shed and people she loves. If she is chosen to be a bee, then everything will be 'super-cherries'. She is a very engaging and original character whose energy and enthusiasm are infectious and whose willingness to make the best of every situation and ability to relate to others is endearing. Her relationship with her mother is very well handled; Peony's loyalty in the face of betrayal and desertion, clinging to the hope her mother will ultimately choose her children over all else is very moving, making this an excellent book for developing and encouraging empathy.
Through her eyes, we learn about how most of the real bees have been killed by over use of pesticides and how thirty years ago famines swept the land, causing great hunger and hardship. Her story warns us of an all too-possible future, giving the story a strong environmental theme which is woven into the story, not driving it.
A great book for making children think and to provoke conversations about the environment and the plight of bees.