The Little Bee Charmer of Henrietta Street
The story of the tenement houses on Henrietta Street in Dublin is one which will interest children in mid-upper primary school. For those children who are aware of the current issue of homelessness, it serves as a reminder of the ongoing nature of this societal issue. For those who are not, this story could be a catalyst for discussion and reflection.
The characters of the narrator, Eliza, her brother, Jonty, and her new friend, Annie, are sympathetically drawn. Annie, in particular, resonates. Her responsibilities and the limitations on her life imposed by the harsh realities of disadvantage contrast sharply with her dreams. The terrible change in Eliza’s own circumstances
is dealt with without being either overwhelming or hopeless for the young reader. Some of the other characters in the book are more one dimensional. This feels like a lost opportunity, as the structure of the story lends itself to greater exploration of different social classes in Dublin in the early twentieth century. The facts about bees at the start of each chapter are nicely connected to the book’s title. Bees and bee- keeping are topical subjects today and this aspect makes for an interesting way to raise environmental awareness for the young reader. Indeed, this information about bees would make for a very interesting non- fiction book for children of this age group.
Overall, a timely book and one which will appeal to children who enjoy stories with an historical setting.