A HIVE FOR THE HONEYBEE

Lally uses a broad brush in this sexist allegory, contrasting—at length—the industrious female worker bees and the charming but dim-witted male drones, with their thoroughly ineffectual government and religion. As young Thora and her sharp-tongued friend Belle go about tending the hive and, later in the season, gathering nectar and pollen, the self-appointed Grand Drone creates a bureaucracy, dubbing dreamy Alfred Poet Laureate of the hive, charging disputatious Mo with seeing to it that the sun rises at dawn and sets at dusk, and leading ritual worship of the Great Drone in the Sky (familiarly known as the “GDS”). Expressing doubts about the GDS, scandalizing Alfred with the idea that the females’ Honey Dance might be art, suggesting to a confused Thora that all bees are free to make their own choices, Mo is a real troublemaker, though he loses some of his idealism after Belle is killed while driving off supposedly friendly wasps. In a poignant but ineffective ending, Mo and Alfred pass through disillusionment to wisdom as they’re driven out of the hive with the rest of the drones to die in the cold, and Thora, old and tattered, discovers in her last moments the peace of one whose work is done. Not Brewster’s quirky, accomplished drawings of insects with human heads, nor the author’s rich harvest of bee lore can rescue this labored satire. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-51038-X

Page Count: 226

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1998

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THE DARK PORTAL

Popular in England but never before published in America, the first book of Jarvis’s fantasy trilogy depicts an epic battle between good and evil. The side of good is represented by a society of harmonious, quiet-living mice who are aided and abetted by the more spiritual and mysterious bats above. Together they fight the evil, filthy rats, denizens of the dark and slimy sewers, who are ruled by a demonic overlord named Jupiter. The battle begins when a young mouse named Audrey Brown bravely slips between the bars of the basement grate, the portal between the mouse and rat universe, to search for her father, who has met with misadventure and disappeared into the hellish world beneath. As the stakes rise, Jarvis ratchets up the suspense, neatly juggling several story lines that culminate in a remarkable climactic disclosure. He does a good job, especially through the dialogue, of differentiating the multitude of mice, rat, and bat characters that populate the book. Still, the characters lack that elusive quality of lovability that makes the reader care deeply about their fate. Moreover, although the simultaneously symbolic and literal three-tiered world of bats, mice, and rats is well imagined and beautifully detailed, the narrative is rather dense, causing the book’s story engine to flag at several points. Although not right for every reader, Jarvis has delivered a robust book with a big-canvas plot that is tailor made for lovers of fantasy adventure and animal characters. (cast of characters, afterword) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-58717-021-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2000

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MEGIDDO’S SHADOW

What would it be like to have your faith in God and country tested in the Holy Land itself? Sixteen-year-old Canadian Edward Bathe has already lost his brother Hector in World War I, and now he feels it’s his duty to serve. He abandons his ailing father and heads off to war, ending up in Palestine to fight the Turks. The war shatters Edward’s faith, and when he returns home and enters his old church, he whispers to the carving of Jesus on the cross, “I walked where you walked, and I didn’t see you anywhere.” The narrative takes its time in getting Edward to Palestine, but when he enters battle on his beloved horse Buke, the scenes are every bit as exciting as any movie spectacle. Though additional historical context would have provided depth to the story, rousing action and characters to care about yield a memorable tale. A good match with Michael Morpurgo’s Private Peaceful (2003). (map, author’s note) (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-74701-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2006

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