Bessie Sullivan, County Librarian: Hello, I’m Bessie Sullivan from the Haliburton County Public Library and this is Library Moments. Once a week some of us from the library will come and talk about books, upcoming events, or the services we offer at the library.
It is incredible how many novels have the word BEE in their titles, some are about spelling bees like the movie version of Akeelah and the Bee or the audio of Bee Season. Some are about the plant like Cynthia Riggs’s The Bee Balm Murders, still more are actually about bees and beekeeping. Some have been well known like Canadian Gail Anderson-Dargatz’s A Recipe for Bees, or Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees. One novel the Haliburton County Public Library has is actually from the perspective of the bee herself and is called The Bees by Lalin Paull. Of course there are also all the factual books about these fascinating creatures.
Today on Library Moments Sherrill Sherwood, Erin Kernohan-Berning, and I will talk about our favourite Bee book.
Sherrill Sherwood, Collections Development: The Incomparable Honeybee and the Economics of Pollination by Dr. Reese Halter is a concise account of the honeybees that have profoundly shaped our planet for the past 110 million years. They are the most important group of flower-visiting animals, pollinating more multi-billion-dollar crops and plants than any other living group. This book is rich with interesting and humbling facts: bees can count, they can vote, and honey has potent medicinal properties, able to work as an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant. A chapter from the book states:
Bees are capable of helping humans when we fall ill and they provide for us at all times. In turn, we need to renew our commitment to this relationship. A tremendous amount is at stake. Until we properly reciprocate, we move closer toward eventual eradication of the bees, thus jeopardizing our own health and life as we know it on this planet.
Dr. Reese devotes the last chapter of this quick to read book to the specific steps individuals can take to help the bees recover.
Erin Kernohan-Berning, Branch Services Librarian: In Laline Paull’s The Bees Flora 717 emerges as a lowly sanitation bee, almost victim to the fertility police as they call her large dark and hulking figure a deformity. Saved by a Sage priestess, the caste closest to the Queen of her hive, she is allowed to perform various functions in the hive – cleaning, nursing, and foraging – all in the name of serving her queen and protecting the hive. We also discover that Flora has a secret that she must keep from her hive, or face death.
Billed by the publisher as Watership Down for The Hunger Games generation, The Bees is told entirely from Flora 717’s perspective. Paull presents a well researched, imaginative, and suspenseful story that’s part drama in the royal court, part dystopian fiction. Each caste is given a metaphorical personality as they go through their tumultuous season – the Sages like ladies in waiting, the foragers like WWI pilots, the Thistle guards like tin soldiers, the sanitation bees like slaves, and the male drones like cocky playboys. Outside the hive the world is filled with danger from creatures like devious wasps and prophetic spiders, cell phone towers, flamboyant but infertile ornamentals dry of nectar and pollen, and uncertain weather because of climate change. While Paull’s more anthropomorphic use of metaphor occasionally threatens to shatter the illusion, her spell never breaks as Flora keeps her secret from those who would do her harm, and discovers a dark and dangerous secret of the hive in the process.
Bessie: Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily’s fierce-hearted black “stand-in mother,” Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free. They escape to Tiburon, South Carolina–a town that holds the secret to her mother’s past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey. This is a remarkable novel about divine female power and kindness to all, black or white. Published in 2002, this was non-fiction writer Sue Monk Kidd’s first novel and was also made into a movie.
Even this small sample of books from our collection indicate how important bees are to us as human beings, as well as our ecosystem. Thank you for listening to Library Moments here on 100.9 CanoeFM. We hope you get as big a BUZZ out of reading as we do!
*Originally aired on 100.9 CANOE FM, January 18th – 24th, 2015.