Bren MacDibble


All 80 titles for the six categories of our long list have now been reviewed! Each and every one a fantastic book, highly recommended by JAB and the NSTAB team.

The short list will be announced on the 8th September. Votes from the panel are already coming in so here's a little reminder of the twelve fabulous books on the Moving On Category Long List.


The Polar Bear Explorers' Club- Alex Bell (Faber and Faber)


Twister- Juliette Forrest (Scholastic)


The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole- Michelle Cuevas     (Simon and Schuster) 


Ella on the Outside- Cath Howe (Nosy Crow)

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Tin - Padraig Kenny (Chicken House)

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Running on Empty- S E Durrant (Nosy Crow)


The Children of Castle Rock- Natasha Farrant (Faber and Faber)


 Kick- Mitch Johnson (Usborne)


The Eye of the North- Sinead O'Hart (Stripes)


Charlie and Me – Mark Lowery (Piccadilly)


How to Bee- Bren MacDibble (Old Barn Books)

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Herstory  Katherine Halligan  (Nosy Crow)

Which four of these fabulous books will make it to the short list?



In a world without bees, children are employed to pollinate the precious crops with feathers full of pollen. Others- those not yet ten or the not so nimble and quick- spend their time killing the bugs which might damage the fruit. 'Lessons' are sometimes broadcast over loudspeakers whilst the children are working, but they receive little education. The fruits of their labours are sent for the folk to enjoy. This is Peony's world- she's poor and her life is hard, yet she is happy with Gramps and Magnolia (her sister) living in their shack. Her mother, however, has different ideas and has left her children to go to the city in the hope of making a better life.

Abducted by her mother and forced to go and work in the city, Peony's life is turned upside down and she is determined to return to the world she knows and loves.

Set in a dystopian world, 'How to Bee' offers an alarming glimpse at a possible future for us all where bees are extinct. It is a divided society, a world of haves and have-nots, with child labour the norm. Bren MacDibble intertwines Peony's harsh existence with that of Esmeralda, the rich girl whose household she finds herself working in, allowing the reader to see the vast distance between their lives- and yet find the positives in both worlds. 

It is a dark picture, yet Peony's irrepressible, optimistic character shines through. She is a real joy and her outlook on life is wonderful. In the midst of poverty and hardship, she enjoys the warmest family relationships with her grandfather and sister and shows incredible loyalty to her mother in spite of everything.  Always ready to assist others, she takes no nonsense from Ez, yet she recognises her need and puts her own problems aside to help. Esmeralda's parents enjoy a warm, loving relationship in stark contrast to the abusive nature of Peony's Ma and her latest man, the 'Ape'. 

'How to Bee' is a moving, intelligent novel, offering plenty of food for thought and a cast of appealing- and not so appealing- characters which linger with you long after the story is finished, making it perfect for our Moving On category.

How to Bee  Bren MacDibble

Old Barn Books     ISBN: 978-1910646441

You can read another review of 'How to Bee' here.



How To Bee


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.