Review of The Summer We Saved the Bees by Robin Stevenson

Full disclosure: I loved The Summer We Saved the Bees by Robin Stevenson. From the moment I was introduced to 12-year-old Wolf, his 5-year-old twin sisters Saffy and Whisper, his 15-year-old step sister Violet, and their free-spirited mother Jade, I knew this was a family I wanted to spend time with.

Jade has decided to take the whole family on a cross country trip to raise awareness about the plight of bees around the world. Wolf understands that they have to save the planet, but he’s not sure living in a van and doing presentations on the road is the way to do it.  At first, he is just self-conscious about the stupid costume Jade wants him to wear, but soon he notices other problems too. Whisper, always a quiet child, has stopped talking altogether, and Violet is becoming increasingly desperate to get away from the family and the whole embarrassing endeavour. Wolf is torn, because he knows that if they can’t save the bees, they might not have a future to worry about, but in the present there are a lot of things that concern him. He struggles with how to make his mother understand that there might be more important things than saving the bees. 

In Wolf we see a dilemma that many kids today have to deal with. How do you have hope for your future when the future of the world seems bleak? The answer isn’t simple, and Stevenson doesn’t try to say it is. Jade’s position that if they don’t save the bees there may be no future for any of them is compelling, but so is Wolf’s argument that his five-year-old twin sisters shouldn’t have to deal with such an adult problem.  Nor should Wolf, the reader might add. Wolf feels like a failure because parading in public in a tight fitting bee costume isn’t for him, but the reader sees that he is steadfast in standing by his sisters. As Anna, a woman the family meets along the way, says to Wolf, “Perhaps there is more than one kind of warrior.”

Robin Stevenson’s captures the complexity and people and their relationships in this engaging book for teens.  

Kari Jones has written five books for children and youth, and her work has been translated into several languages. She lives on the west coast of Canada with her husband and son and their dog, Tintin. Her latest book is At The Edge of the World. For more information, visit www.karijones.ca.