Summary: The Queen Bee and Me
In The Queen Bee and Me, Beatrix and Meg have always been a package deal — best friends since kindergarten! Lately though, things have changed between the girls. Meg can’t forget the time Beatrix froze her out when she annoyed her and she’s also noticed that Beatrix can’t stand it when she disagrees with any of her opinions. Still, Meg loves science and when she’s invited to join a special advanced science class, she can’t say no.
Things start to shift when Meg meets a quirky girl named Hazel. Hazel is new to the neighborhood and ends up being in Meg’s science class. However, because Beatrix thinks Hazel is “weird,” Meg is afraid to befriend Hazel, despite Hazel being kind and passionate about science. Matters come to a head when Hazel and her mother mention that they keep bees for fun and Hazel suggests the girls study bees for a class project. Beatrix and her mother start a petition to get the bees out of the neighborhood and Meg must decide whether Beatrix will be her “Queen Bee” forever or whether she’ll stand up for her new friend.
This book is so well-written. Meg and Beatrix are sharply drawn characters and Meg’s voice draws you in from the first page. The friendship dynamics are complex and Hazel’s eccentricity is heartwarming, but also challenging because just like Meg, you almost wish she would try to blend in a bit more. However, her persistence in being herself is what I love most about Hazel. Just deciding to keep wearing quirky outfits and being kind was a quiet revolution and I love the way the author writes about Hazel through Meg’s eyes.
Besides the girls’ friendship drama, the moms also have a similar dynamic brewing. I found Meg’s mother to be an interesting character. She moved a lot as a child and thinks Meg and Beatrix’s friendship is a gift from heaven (one she never had as a child) despite the unhealthy patterns visible in the girls’ relationship. I also enjoyed reading about Meg’s family and much like in What Happens Next and Ava Andrews, a lot of this book’s plot is family-centered, which I loved.
Finally, I really liked all the bee trivia! I had no idea bees were such fascinating creatures and I found all the parallels the authors draws between bee living and friendship clever and insightful. It’s always fun when an author can connect science to life in their books. One of my favorites with a science-y twist is Tae Keller’s The Science of Breakable Things (read this book!).
Overall: The Queen Bee and Me
If you’re looking for an immersive, complex book about middle-school (and adult) female friendships with a side of science and teaching kindness and empathy, this is for you. The Queen and Bee and Me is an engaging, realistic portrayal of how toxic a friendship can become (much like in Keiko Carter) and how important it is for young girls to recognize and remove themselves from such situations. This one will take you all the way back to middle-school. Love, love, and highly recommend. The audiobook (which I listened to) is fantastic.
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Have you read this book or anything by Gillian Dunn? I started reading her debut, Caterpillar Summer, and so far I think The Queen Bee and Me is more my speed, but I’ll see it through anyway! What are your favorite friendship middle-grade books? How about science-y middle-grade books? I’m always looking for recs!