Zinnia and the Bees – Danielle Davis

It begins with twelve year old Zinnia yarn bombing Ronny, her middle school’s rattlesnake mascot, with her older brother the day before summer vacation. After spending the day in detention because someone outed her as a knitter (we never find out who did this), Zinnia thinks her day can’t get any worse. Before the day is over, 4,000 bees have taken up residence in her hair and she discovers her brother is missing.

Adam told me once that he was named Adam and I was named Zinnia because our dad wanted his kids to experience everything in the world from A to Z. That’s how I used to feel with Adam, like we had all the letters of the alphabet connecting us.

But now he’s left me here, a dangling Z.

Zinnia’s relationship with her mother can be summed up with the knowledge that she calls her mother Dr. Flossdrop. Without Adam as her anchor Zinnia is lost, feeling betrayed and confused by his absence. She’s also still feeling betrayed by some former friends. Zinnia’s new bird watching friend, Birch, and her Aunt Mildred bring a spark to what could have become an overwhelmingly sad book.

I found it poetic that the bees find Zinnia since she shares her name with a flower but the bees didn’t give me the buzz (sorry!) I was looking for. I love bees so was initially intrigued to read from their perspective but each time I read one of the chapters dedicated to their story I became sad or annoyed.

I couldn’t believe that such an intelligent species would be unable to locate a suitable home for themselves or that they could even survive for as long as they did without food (and assumably water). Then there was the fact that of all of the kids and adults in the book only one child detects any of the 4,000 bees on Zinnia’s head. Surely the buzzing alone of that many bees would be a hint! I am almost positive I would have enjoyed this book more if the bees never made an appearance.

This is a story of bees, a dog named Milkshake, ice cream and French movies. Zinnia’s story is an exploration of how fear can prevent us from truly connecting with people and how lonely life can be when you don’t trust other people or yourself. I absolutely loved Laura K. Horton’s cover illustration.

I’m still furious with Adam. With their mother emotionally absent when she’s not working or doing one of her community projects, Adam and Zinnia are all each other have. Adam’s excuse for why he didn’t tell Zinnia he was leaving felt flimsy and while Zinnia was quick to forgive him, I’m not. Surely he could have gone off and been a reality TV star on his own and still have clued Zinnia in so she didn’t spend most of the book wasting her time and emotional energy searching for him.

I kept wondering why Zinnia’s clothes were always charcoal grey when she uses all the colours of the rainbow when knitting. She mentions it’s her favourite colour but I thought there’d be more to it than that. Zinnia also counts random things throughout the book, usually when she’s anxious about something, so my mind automatically went to OCD. This is never addressed though.

Thank you to NetGalley and Capstone for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A colony of honeybees mistakes seventh-grader Zinnia’s hair for a hive – and that’s the least of her problems. 

While Zinnia’s classmates are celebrating the last day of seventh grade, she’s in the vice principal’s office, serving detention. Her offense? Harmlessly yarn-bombing a statue of the school mascot. When Zinnia rushes home to commiserate with her older brother and best friend, Adam, she’s devastated to discover that he’s gone – with no explanation. Zinnia’s day surely can’t get any worse … until a colony of honeybees inhabits her hive-like hair!

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