Book Review: The Way of the Hive
The Way of the Hive, a graphic work of creative non-fiction by Jay Hosler, is a delightful and refreshing read during *gestures vaguely at the state of the world in 2020* all this. (Hopefully the world will have taken a chill pill by April 2021 when this book is due to be published, but I'm sure readers will find it delightful and refreshing, regardless). The artwork is cute, without being "cutesy," and the story, while educational, is actually quite funny in places, and even touching, in others. (Seriously. Never thought I'd have emotions about a bee, but here we are!).
Before I really get started on this review, I want to thank both NetGalley and HarperAlley for the opportunity to read and review the book early. And no, reading a copy of the book for free has not affected my review in any way--my opinions are genuine.
When I downloaded the advanced reader copy of this book from NetGalley, I saw in small print on the bottom of the cover that The Way of the Hive had previously been published under the title of Clan Apis. I did a little digging, and found that the library I work at actually has a copy of the original! It never stood out to me before, so I think the new title will help it find more readers, as it helps better identify what the book will actually be about. I mean, yeah, there are bees on the cover of Clan Apis, too, but the new version, along with having a better, more specific title, is also more vibrant and inviting in its color scheme, especially with the cute little bee waving out at the reader. The cover and title were actually a big part of what drew me to request the ARC in the first place. Kudos to the graphic design and marketing team--I think y'all nailed this one. I should also add that the title reminds me of a now famous, and oft memed line from a Disney+ tv show, The Mandalorian, which is "This is the way." The Mandalorians are also a very insular group of people, who, like bees, always place the good of the group as a whole ahead of the good of the individual. I like the show, so that mental connection is another thing that drew me to request this ARC. If the team at HarperAlley purposely meant for this mental connection to happen for readers upon seeing/hearing the title--double kudos, because, y'all, it worked. For me at least.
Moving on to the actual story: The Way of the Hive follows the life cycle of a bee through the eyes of Nyuki, who the reader meets as a smart-mouthed larva. She is reluctant to grow and change, because change is scary (I feel you, Nyuki, I feel you). Her older sister Dvorah becomes her close friend, helping guide Nyuki through her different life stages, giving her the confidence to do what has to be done, because it is The Way of the Hive. I absolutely adore the relationship dynamic and dialogue between Nyuki and Dvorah--the good-natured snark between them brings to mind the relationship between Dorothy and Sophia from The Golden Girls. (Again with the references to tv shows, I know, I know).
I don't want to say too much about the plot of the story itself, but I will say that the author does a great job of weaving fascinating information about bees into the narrative through Nyuki's dialogue and interactions with other bees (and even other insects), without coming off as didactic and preachy.
On a final note, I can say that I recommend this book for readers of all ages who are interested in bees (and even those who are not...but the story is bee-centric, so bee-avoidant readers, beeware!) (Ha, see what I did there?)
The Way of the Hive gets 5 stars from me, and I will recommend my colleagues purchase a copy to replace our twenty year old (holy cow, 2000 doesn't feel like it was twenty years ago--now I feel old!) copy of Clan Apis.