“Something flies too close to my ear. For a moment, its buzz is the only noise in my world.” The Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eager
The first two sentences of The Hour of the Bees alert us to the importance of the buzzing insects. Bees appear in the title and the main character hears only their whirring as the story begins. All that exists are the bees. All that matters are the bees.
10 pages. In my last post I said I would be re-reading the openings of some favorite MG books. As I dissected the “starters” in this novel I was intrigued. We read about a family in distress. They have left home, friends, work and all normalcy for the summer. A family crisis pulls them to a dying ranch in a drought plagued landscape.
The sheep ranch has only a dozen sheep, the grass is crunchy and brown and the grandfather whom the children have never met has dementia. Family tensions are hinted at, conversation skitters past a missing grandmother and unwanted change seems unavoidable.
But the bees whisper the possibility of something else. Of hope. Of rain instead of drought.
There are no big action sequences, no swordplay or blood. There are no monsters, breakups, new kids at school or bullies. These 10 pages introduce us to a family and makes us curious about their fate. Their every-day-ness connects us to them. Then the bees fly past. Only one person sees or hears them. Is it an illusion brought on by the drought? Or is there much more to the story and the bees will take us there?
The first 10 pages* for The Hour of the Bees set the stage for a great read. As we continue through the novel we learn of the extent of the drought both for the land and in the family. Plots and subplots, stories within stories, increase the tension and make the book impossible to put down.
The Bees are the bait that set the hook to catch readers. We are then pulled into a rich and satisfying story.
This is a must read MG novel. This island reader gives it 5 sea stars.
*(In my version of the text Chapter 1 is 18 pages long, but I’m counting it as the basic 10 page introduction that would be sent to agents.)