Hour of the Bees

Review written by Jonathan Lavallee

How do you measure time?

Hour of the Bees measures time in teardrops that fall as you read the book.

Carol, nee Carolina, has discovered that she is going to spend her summer at her grandfather’s ranch. He has late stage dementia and they are getting things ready so they can move him into an assisted living home. Carol has never met this grandfather because her dad hasn’t really talked to him in the past twelve years, and now they’re tasked with this large undertaking. At first she’s concerned about the whole thing and hates having to leave her friends on the cusp of middle school, but eventually she’s drawn into her grandfather Serge’s stories.

This book made me cry three times as I got near the end of it. It is a beautiful tale about family drama, a beautiful tale about dying, and a beautiful tale about living all wrapped up in a very short package. There is a very epic poetic style that Serge uses when he tells stories about the village and the tree that used to protect everyone, and the tone flows quickly into the simpler style that you get when things are told from Carol’s perspective. If you have a tween who loves touching stories, they will love this book. There might be some questions because there are plenty of Spanish words that they might need help with, but you’ll find that they’re pretty common words.

You will want to be there with your tween for the end of this book. Serge dying, and how Carol feels about the tree and the ranch is heartbreaking. So much so that when she does something incredibly dangerous to show him that the tree grew back, and the bees had brought back the water, you don’t really question because you’re carried into the magic of the story and what’s going on.

That said, if your tween is an action reader they might get a little bored with the story. It moves fairly quickly, the story jumps from them arriving to the middle of their trip to the end fairly quickly. I kept looking at the page count to make sure I was in the right spot every time it changed. But there isn’t a lot of action in the story. It’s very much a personal drama, something changing within Carol and the family; so while there is a scene where a car flips over after spinning out, that’s about as much action as it gets.

SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid

Family Drama

This is one of the big two areas that can be a problem. Serge (grandfather) and Luis (father) fight a lot because there is a lot of unspoken hurt between them, and it flares up in major points in the story. Also, Carol has to deal with her older half sister Alta being a moody older teen where there are moments of tenderness and moments when Alta gets mean about their relationship. She screams out that Carol isn’t really her sister in one of their arguments. Even Patricia (mother) argues with Alta because of her relationship with her daughter and her ex-husband. If you’re having issues with your blended family, or your extended family, you’ll want to check in with your tween on this.


The second big issue is death. Serge is dying, and right from the get go you are made aware of that. However, when he is put into the assisted living facility he is heavily medicated when they go to visit him, much to Carol’s shock and dismay. But everything in the story is dying or dead right up until the end. The Tree that sustained their little village is dead, Serge is dying, the ranch is in a drought for the last 100 years according to Serge. Rosa (grandmother) died, and that’s one of the big friction points between Luis and Serge, which gets explained at the end on Serge’s deathbed.


Only kind of sort of a crime, but basically Carol decides that she needs to have Serge see that the tree is rebuilt and the water has returned to the ranch. To do this, she steals her sister’s new car and drives down the highway late at night to the facility. She end up taking her Grandfather out of the facility and driving to the ranch, only to spin the car out and crash it into the newly formed lake.


If your tween loves personal, dramatic stories, you should give them this book. They will devour it in short order, and have plenty of things to talk about. It is one of the better books I have read that deals with death as a subject, in the vein of Charlotte’s Web but without putting it through the filter of anthropomorphized animals who are living and dying. If your tween is good with that kind of meaty, weighty topic, then don’t hesitate to let them read this one.

Then you can figure out how else you can measure time.


Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar
Published in 2016 by Candlewick Press
Read as an eBook

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