cover image A Hive for the Honeybee

A Hive for the Honeybee

Soinbhe Lally. Arthur A. Levine Books, $16.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-590-51038-7

Irish writer Lally makes her American debut with a stirring allegory set in a beehive that is undergoing political and social upheaval. When the elderly queen is forced to leave the hive with many of the workers because of overcrowding, Belle, Thora and other females remain to rebuild the community and prepare for the birth of a new leader. As is their nature, the male drones add to the workload, ordering workers to clean and tend them and arguing over who will win the new queen's favor. Busy as, well, a bee, Thora never questions her lot until she starts working alongside--and befriends--Belle, an outspoken critic of the drones. Thora's friendships with two drones, poet Alfred and philosopher Mo, further politicize her thinking about the role of workers in the hive (the fate of drones, who die after mating with the Queen, and the role of thinkers in society also come under scrutiny). Lally lyrically describes the natural setting, as well as fascinating details about the care and upkeep of a hive. Her gently humorous and touching portraits of Belle, Thora and the rest will endear these characters to young readers, while the escalating drama, leading up to a war with the wasps, will keep pages turning (the more philosophical ruminations, of primary appeal to adults, will likely be glossed over by youngsters). And the icing on the cake: this is a beautifully designed volume, with its gold shadow-striped jacket, honeycomb-embossed case and pencil-drawn chapter heads by Brewster that are both amusing and delicate. All ages. (Mar.)