Andi The Bee: Ants In The Bee Hive, by Phil Silver
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by the author in exchange for an honest review.]
When reading such a delightful children’s novel as this, and particular a novel that is part of a series, at least the third children’s novel by the author dealing with the same small set of characters, namely Boga Bear and his friends, in the grassy area known as The Green in the midst of a forest, one ponders questions of world-building. Within the world of this novel and, likely, the others in the series, we see anthropomorphized animals that behave in generally civilized human ways. The animals are apparently vegetarian—Bogo Bear’s best friends are a rabbit and a gray squirrel, and there is no hint that either of them feel that Bogo Bear is in danger of eating them, and these animals even treat little bees and ants kindly, the sort of animals that people slay by the thousand . The conception of the world of this novel is a kindly one, of the sort that children, and people who buy and read books for children, are likely to approve of as presenting good lessons for edification.
The plot of this story is very straightforward. The Queen Bee has a complaint about ants who have invaded the hive and refuse to leave. The other animals of the friends of the forest group propose that she sent an ambassador to the Queen Ant, and after some discussion it is decided that a little and somewhat handicapped worker bee named Andi would be the best choice. She is, at first, a very anxious bee at the attention she gets, and quite timid by nature, but eventually she makes her way down the tree, since she cannot fly well, with the petition of the Queen, and with some help from Boga Bear ends up at the anthill, where she finds the ants to be somewhat standoffish and suspicious, but not hostile. She manages to receive an audience with the Queen Ant, who explains that some of the worker ants are not particularly sensitive to the concerns of other beings, and also comments that the ants are rather famished, which has made them more fierce about finding food. Andi then comes up with a solution by which the bees can leave some surplus honey at the base of the tree for the ants to eat, a solution that is welcomed by all who hear of it as being particularly generous and fair-minded. After this the Queen Ant sends two guard ants to retrieve the ant refugees from the hive, and after some additional drama and excitement all ends happily.
When reading a novel like this, one has to grasp the points of it. Like most children’s books , there are some very straightforward points ,and others that are more subtle. Straightforwardly, the book conceives of forest animals as living in a world where open communication is the norm. The somewhat problematic state of the ants in this novel springs about because they do not send representatives to the friends of the animals and they do not respect the space or property of others, without being aggressive or hostile about it, and tend to be suspicious of outsiders in general. Likewise, the book is transparently obvious about its desire to paint Andi the Bee, the hardworking and friendly, but very anxious and handicapped worker bee, in a positive light. Again, this novel is written to encourage people to overcome despite their limitations, and to be kind to those they encounter with various handicaps and weaknesses, rather than to be nasty and rude to them. In addition to this, there are more subtle points that deal with the nature of economic refugees, and a call to generosity among those who have a surplus with those who are in need, a call that mirrors the Christian charity of Paul’s epistles, but which in less skillful hands could easily be viewed as a call for income redistribution. Even children’s novels, alas, are not immune from the context of contemporary politics.
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