The Birds and the Bees

illustration of a fiery-tailed sun birdOf course, we all know about the birds and the bees! We weren’t born yesterday! The birds and the bees talk of love (and, shhhhh… s.e.x.). But in literary terms, birds and bees tell of so much more.

Humans are funny creatures and we like to assign meanings to so many things. Birds, especially, it seems, get to do a lot of talking symbolically. In general, they are often seen as messengers from the gods or from heaven — especially raptors. Birds also evoke “freedom.” And it seems that each species has its own symbolism. The stork brings babies. Canaries can evoke beauty, song or a warning. As for bees, they have been used to symbolize fertility, industry and community among other things.

I have gathered a few birds and bees books for you to fall in love with.

Mockingbird Summer book coverIn the book, “Mockingbird Summer,” Lynda Rutledge carries over the theme of “innocence” and “harmlessness” that was used so deftly by Harper Lee in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Set in a very segregated Texas in 1964, Corky befriends America, the daughter of her family’s Haitian housekeeper. When Corky asks America to join her church’s softball team (because she can run so FAST) it sets off a storm in the small town. But — “This was the world Corky had grown up in. And the world you grow up in always feels like the way it has always been and will always be. Until it isn’t.”

The Bee Sting book coverIn a small town in Ireland in 2014, a family is in a slow-moving crisis in “The Bee Sting” by Paul Murray. The beautiful Imelda, had her heart set on Frank, the town football hero and heir to a car dealership, but ends up marrying his brother after a sudden accident. On the way to marry the much smarter but less educated brother, she is stung by a bee. Could that be the impetus for all that has come after? A bee sting symbolizes powerlessness and an inability to protect yourself. The family is buffeted by climate change, anxiety, economic collapse, rebellion, loss of social status, a search for identity, and dysfunction. But family is family and of all the things that COULD happen, most things usually don’t happen.

All the Little Bird-hearts book cover
In “All the Little Bird-Hearts” by Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow, Sunday is an autistic single mother raising her daughter, Dolly. Sunday is divorced from Dolly’s father but still lives on his family’s estate and works in their gardens. She (with all of her sensitivities and quirks) and Dolly live a quiet life until new extravagant neighbors arrive wanting to befriend them and overwhelm them with kindnesses and excess. But is it really friendship or just manipulation? Sunday can’t tell. Soon, Dolly seems to be pulling away from her in favor of the newcomers. Is it jealousy or is there something more? Something darker?

The Last Beekeeper book coverJulie Carrick Dalton’s “The Last Beekeeper” tells the story of Sasha Savern who has returned to her childhood home to find the hidden research of her incarcerated father — the last beekeeper. The home has been overrun by squatters but, while initially fighting them, Sasha begins to see them as a family that she has longed for. Honey bees have been extinct for a decade and food has become scarce. Anyone who says they see a honeybee is considered mentally unstable and often ends up missing, but Sasha knows what she sees and she thinks it has to do with her father’s  research — the research for which he was arrested.

I hope you love these books and if you would like to find more birds and bees books, you can check out this list.

Happy Valentine’s!

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