I'll admit it; I'm not fond of bees. I know they are vital to the Earth's ecology, but getting stung is no fun. However, in this story, bees are beyond magical.
Carol, her parents, her difficult teenage sister, Alta, and her baby brother Lu, leave their home in Albuquerque to the desert to ready her grandfather's sheep farm to be sold. Carol's grandfather, Serge, is suffering from dementia and will be moving into a assisted living facility. Serge and Carol's father, Raul have had a falling out so the family is not close. Serge often mistakes Carol for her grandmother and gets angry and frustrated. The ranch is in the midst of a long drought, but Serge insists that the bees will bring back the rain. Carol is burdened with a lot of responsibility for a girl her age, mostly because Alta ditches her share of the work at the first opportunity. One example was when Serge wanders off when Carol's parents are busy and she is taking care of her younger brother. The love and care she shows for Serge, and her ability to keep working despite her misery shows an immense integrity.
There is a story the Serge tells Carol about a tree that granted the village immortality. However, the villagers were not satisfied with remaining in the village and wanted to venture out so they began to sacrifice the tree to make a talisman for each of them to wear to keep them safe. Eventually, they destroy the tree and lose their immortality. The conflict presented here is an interesting one: is it better to stay safe and live a long, yet boring life or should one take risks and have adventures, even though it could shorten one's life?
This book definitely requires tissues; sad books seem to be a trend among middle grade book this year.