The Secret Life of Bees
The Secret Life of Bees

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Annotation: When Lily's black nanny insults a group of angry white men on her way to register to vote in the 1960s, Lily and Rosaleen flee and are taken in by three bee-keeping sisters.
Catalog Number: #263940
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
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Common Core/STEAM: Common Core Common Core
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Publisher: Penguin
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition Date: 2003
Pages: xii, 302 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-14-200174-0 Perma-Bound: 0-605-01288-1
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-14-200174-5 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-01288-2
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2001026310
Dimensions: 20 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
ALA Booklist
Kidd's warm debut is set in the sixties, just after the civil rights bill has been passed. Fourteen-year-old Lily Owens is haunted by the accidental death of her mother 10 years earlier, which left her in the care of her brutal, angry father but also Rosaleen, a strong, proud black woman. After Rosaleen is thrown into jail for standing up to a trio of racists, Lily helps her escape from the hospital where she is being kept, and the two flee to Tiburon, a town Lily believes her mother had a connection to. A clue among her mother's possessions leads Lily to the Boatwright sisters, three black women who keep bees. They give Lily and Rosaleen the haven they need, but Lily remains haunted by her mother's death and her own involvement in it. Although she fears her father is looking for her, Lily manages to find solace among the strong women who surround her and, eventually, the truth about her mother that she has been seeking. An uplifting story.
Kirkus Reviews
A wonderfully written debut that rather scants its subject of loss and discovery—a young girl searching for the truth about her dead mother—in favor of a feminist fable celebrating the company of women and the ties between that mothers and daughters. The prose is lapidary, the characters diverse, and the story unusual as it crosses the color line, details worship of a black Virgin Mary, and extensively describes the lives and keeping of bees. But despite these accomplishments, the fabulist elements (bees as harbingers of death, a statue with healing powers) seem more whimsical than credible and ultimately detract from the story itself. Lily Owens, just about to turn 14, narrates this tale set in South Carolina during July 1964. Since her mother died when she was four, Lily has been raised by African-American Rosaleen and by her sadistic father T. Ray Owens, a peach farmer who keeps reminding Lily that she killed her mother. When Rosaleen is arrested and beaten for trying to vote, Lily springs her from the hospital, and they head to the town of Tiburon because its name is on the back of a cross that belonged to Lily's mother. On the front is a picture of a black Madonna who can also be seen on the labels of jars of honey produced in Tiburon by local beekeeper Augusta Boatwright. Certain the secret to her mother's past lies in Tiburon, Lily persuades Augusta to take them in. As the days pass she helps with the bees; meets handsome young African-American Zach; becomes convinced her mother knew Augusta; and is introduced to the worship of Our Lady of Chains, a wooden statue of Mary that since slavery has had special powers. By summer's end, Lily knows a great deal of bee lore and also finds the right moment to learn what really happened to her mother. Despite some dark moments, more honey than vinegar.
Publishers Weekly

Honey-sweet but never cloying, this debut by nonfiction author Kidd (The Dance of the Dissident Daughter) features a hive's worth of appealing female characters, an offbeat plot and a lovely style. It's 1964, the year of the Civil Rights Act, in Sylvan, S.C. Fourteen-year-old Lily is on the lam with motherly servant Rosaleen, fleeing both Lily's abusive father T. Ray and the police who battered Rosaleen for defending her new right to vote. Lily is also fleeing memories, particularly her jumbled recollection of how, as a frightened four-year-old, she accidentally shot and killed her mother during a fight with T. Ray. Among her mother's possessions, Lily finds a picture of a black Virgin Mary with "Tiburon, S.C." on the back—so, blindly, she and Rosaleen head there. It turns out that the town is headquarters of Black Madonna Honey, produced by three middle-aged black sisters, August, June and May Boatwright. The "Calendar sisters" take in the fugitives, putting Lily to work in the honey house, where for the first time in years she's happy. But August, clearly the queen bee of the Boatwrights, keeps asking Lily searching questions. Faced with so ideally maternal a figure as August, most girls would babble uncontrollably. But Lily is a budding writer, desperate to connect yet fiercely protective of her secret interior life. Kidd's success at capturing the moody adolescent girl's voice makes her ambivalence comprehensible and charming. And it's deeply satisfying when August teaches Lily to "find the mother in (herself)"—a soothing lesson that should charm female readers of all ages. (Jan. 28)

Forecast:Blurbs from an impressive lineup of women writers—Anita Shreve, Susan Isaacs, Ursula Hegi—pitch this book straight at its intended readership. It's hard to say whether confusion with the similarly titledBee Season will hurt or help sales, but a 10-city author tour should help distinguish Kidd. Film rights have been optioned and foreign rights sold in England and France.

School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Lily Owens, 14, is an emotionally abused white girl living with her cold, uncaring father on a peach farm in rural South Carolina. The memory of her mother, who was accidentally killed in Lily's presence when she was four, haunts her constantly. She has one of her mother's few possessions, a picture of a black Madonna with the words, Tiburon, South Carolina, written on the back. Lily's companion during her sad childhood has been Rosaleen, the black woman hired to care for her. Rosaleen, in a euphoric mood after the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, goes to town to register to vote and insults one of the town's most racist residents. After she is beaten up and hospitalized, Lily decides to rescue her and they go to Tiburon to search for memories of her mother. There they are taken in by three black sisters who are beekeepers producing a line of honey with the Black Madonna label. While racial tensions simmer around them, the women help Lily accept her loss and learn the power of forgiveness. There is a wonderful sense of the strength of female friendship and love throughout the story.-Penny Stevens, Andover College, Portland, ME Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Word Count: 93,316
Reading Level: 5.7
Interest Level: 9+
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.7 / points: 15.0 / quiz: 68836 / grade: Upper Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:7.2 / points:22.0 / quiz:Q28643
Lexile: 840L

The multi-million bestselling novel about a young girl's journey towards healing and the transforming power of love, from the award-winning author of The Invention of Wings

Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily's fierce-hearted black "stand-in mother," Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free. They escape to Tiburon, South Carolina--a town that holds the secret to her mother's past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sister, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey, and the Black Madonna. This is a remarkable novel about divine female power, a story that women will share and pass on to their daughters for years to come.


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