Discussion questions prepared by Kelly Carey
Lindsay Eagar’s middle grade novel Hour of the Bees follows the summer adventure of twelve-year-old Carol as she travels with her family to a desert ranch in Mexico to move her estranged grandfather into a nursing home. The arid landscape is punctuated by rattlesnakes, family discord, and stories from Carol’s grandfather, Serge, who has dementia. He talks about a magical tree, the power of bees, and Carol’s heritage. By studying Eagar’s novel, writers can explore first-person point of view, the importance of supporting characters, the genre of magical realism, the use of mystery to create readability, and how flashbacks can become a tool to bridge generations and provide backstory.
Use the discussion questions on your own or with a book group to investigate Hour of the Bees. As you consider each question, take note of how your own manuscripts apply Eagar’s methods.
These discussion questions were inspired by the KidLit Book Club meeting at The Writers’ Loft. We’d love to have you join us. Check out the Loft calendar to find out about our next meeting!
- Hour of the Bees is written from the first-person POV. Did you believe the narrator was a twelve-year-old girl? What language and phrasing worked? What didn’t work? How do you make sure you are writing in the voice of your character?
- Carol (or Carolina) has an older sister and a younger brother. How do these characters propel the plot and reveal information about Carol, and are they effective in supporting the main character? What characters do you put around your main character? What purpose do they serve, and are they effective?
- Compare the use of a tree in Hour of the Bees, in Katherine Applegate’s
Wishtree and in Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. How does each author use a tree to tell their story? Does your story use an object to lend mystery, importance, or heart?
- Hour of the Bees employs magical realism. How is this an effective genre for Eagar’s story? What does an element of magic add to a story? Compare the use of magical realism in Hour of the Bees and in Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan. Would your manuscript benefit from a magical element?
- The main character’s Mexican-American heritage is an important element in the story, but the author is not a Mexican-American. What are the benefits and pitfalls of writing outside your own culture? Does your story require the exploration of a culture other than your own? How can authors make a story authentic when they do not share the cultural experience of their characters?
- Choosing where to start a story is an important decision for any writer. Where did Eagar’s start her story? Was it the right place to start? How does your manuscript start? Do you start on the day everything changed or do readers benefit when the story starts with a snippet of life before everything changed?
- Eagar weaves mystery into her story, leaving readers wondering about the bees, the tree, Rosa, and the relationship between the main character’s father and grandfather. How does an element of mystery welcome page turns? And how can too much mystery frustrate a reader? Does Eagar find the balance? Do you offer a mystery in your manuscript that adds to the readability of your story?
- Hour of the Bees employs a clever flashback to reveal the story of Carol’s grandparents. How is this effective? Does Eagar use a different tone or voice when the story is shared from Carol’s POV vs. Serge’s POV? How is the language, cadence, and rhythm of each POV different? How is this good for the reader? How is this method helpful in providing backstory? How do you reveal the important backstory elements?