I recently joined a group of book bloggers to write reviews for children’s books. I am so excited to share my first one with all of you! Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way. I received a free copy of Zinnia and the Bees by Danielle Davis. This book is definitely for kids ages 9-12 with the themes, problems, and vocabulary used, which is also why I really wanted to read it.
Zinnia is a young lady going into eighth grade who is dealing with a lot. She feels she has been isolated from her group of best friends, her mom is always working as a dentist or a community leader, a boy moved in next door for the summer, and her brother just left. In addition, she also has a hive of bees in her hair.
The book was really easy to read, the pacing was on point and the plot was entertaining. I read it in two sittings, but I am also a really fast reader. The chapters were a great length with cute little chapter titles. I normally read YA, so I am used to the structure and typical story patterns that authors use. I can honestly say that this one was a game changer.
The point of view is first person Zinnia, until it shifts every few chapters to the point of view of bees. I have read many books where there are multiple point of views, but this one is very different in a positive way. The author not only uses the bees to express their feelings on being insects, but infuses nonfiction facts into the thought process. “Not the ancestors who traveled across the Atlantic in 1622 in the straw hives of English colonists to become the first Americans of their kind, but the many who came after them.” (page 31). This type of writing puts a spin on delivering factual information to children. It is a great way for young readers to learn facts without trying to navigate through nonfiction text features.
Also, the author took it a step further. Not only did she share information about bees, she provided a different perspective on the treatment of nature in our society, which is a current trend. In the last six months, I have personally seen the concern about the bee population skyrocket. Davis introduces readers to the real life situation that many of these bees face. “We were commercial, migratory bees. In other words, were were not out there on our own, free. We were rentals. We were tended by beekeepers who employed us to pollinate food for humans.” (page 29). This different approach of incorporating an alternate point of view was a risk, but Davis really made it something memorable.
As a middle school language arts teacher, I tend to read books with the approach of how I can use it in the classroom. I constantly look for themes and this book has some really great ones for kids ages 9-12. However, I found that each theme was made up of multiple layers, which helped create complexity. This book could have very well have been an easy read, but Davis infused such intricate components that it made the reader think while reading. Some of the big themes include: friendship, family, trust, death, freedom and environment.
The complexity of Zinnia’s character is also something to be noted. It was incredible to watch her unfold and persevere through her struggles during her summer vacation. She did have a few vulnerable moments, which added to the realism of the story, but she continued to push through and keep going.
Zinnia is also a very different type of girl. She loves to knit and has a fantastic relationship with her brother. She is not obsessed with her cellphone or social media. She reminded me of a girl during the 90s and early 2000s who played outside and didn’t rely on technology to entertain her (my kind of girl). I think that when girls read this book it will encourage them to do something artistic (draw, sew, paint) and to get away from the technology.
Overall, this book touches on so many aspects of life for kids ages 9-12, but it also hits on different trends our society is currently facing. If this book was in my classroom library I know it would be a hard one to keep on the shelf.