cover image Hour of the Bees

Hour of the Bees

Lindsay Eagar. Candlewick, $16.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-7636-7922-4

Eagar seamlessly blends a 12-year-old girl’s summer of change with a hefty dose of magical realism in this accomplished debut. A past family rift means that Carol first meets her grandfather Serge when her family arrives from Albuquerque to sell his sheep ranch before settling him in a nursing home. Serge’s question to Carol, who uses an Anglicized version of her name, Carolina— “Why do you spit on your roots, chiquita?”—makes her ponder her heritage. Unexpectedly drawn to her grandfather, Carol finds that her woes (an obnoxious older sister, absent friends, endless chores, stressed-out parents) pale next to the questions and fears raised in Serge’s entrancing stories, which all begin, “Once upon a time, there was a tree.” Fairytale motifs (“No rain for a hundred years”) emphasize the stark physicality of the New Mexican mesa, with its oppressive heat, spindly sheep, and numerous dangers. Through this atmospheric setting, Eagar sustains a sense of wonder and longing for small things (bees, seeds, stories) to respond to big human needs. Ages 10–14. Agent: Sarah Davies, Greenhouse Literary. (Mar.)