Ali’s Bees by Bruce Olav Solheim

Ali’s Bees

Bruce Olav Solheim, Author

Gabby Untermayerova, Illustrations

CreateSpace, Fiction, Jul. 14, 2017

Pages: 142

Suitable for Ages: 7-12

Themes: Immigration, Iraq, Loss, PTSD, Bees, Intergenerational relationships, Tolerance, Friendship

Publisher Synopsis: There is a lot you can learn from bees. They may look aggressive, but they won’t sting you if you keep your cool and make them comfortable around you.

Ali wishes he could feel comfortable in his new home in Los Angeles, California. He loves living with his beekeeper grandfather, but he desperately misses his parents. They were killed in a terrorist attack in Iraq, and Ali was sent halfway across the world to live with his grandfather. In addition to the deep grief Ali faces, he is also struggling with post traumatic stress disorder from the attack.

Ali’s wise grandfather knows that working with the bees will help. Ali enjoys working with the bees so much that he announces he will do his science project on bees, their place in the world, and the dangers of colony collapse disorder. His work attracts the attention of Lupe, a friendly classmate with problems of her own, and Jenks, an angry bully who cares for his disabled father. The three form an unlikely connection through a funny bee dance and a cherished Mickey Mantle baseball card. Will it be enough to overcome their differences and the challenges each one faces?

Why I like this book:

Bruce Olav Solheim has written a sensitive and realistic story about an Iraqi teen boy who has lost his family to the horrors of war and comes to live with his grandfather in California. It is a positive story that challenges readers to understand the effects of war and to show compassion and tolerance towards immigrants as they learn new customs.

The characters are memorable.  Ali has been emotionally scarred by the loss of his parents during bombings.  He is grieving and suffers from PTSD. Sirens and loud noises remind him of war. His wise and patient grandfather, Jady, is a beekeeper. He has a steady and calming influence on Ali as he teaches him how to love and care for bees.  Ali makes friends with Lupe, who has her own family immigration problems, and Jenks who is a bully, but knows how to build things. They are unlikely and diverse threesome, yet perfect partners for Ali’s science project on bees.

The bees not only play a role in Ali’s emotional healing, but also promote the idea of teamwork as the students work together on their bee science project. Learning about bees also encourages readers to become interested in the plight of bees and the natural world.

The language is easy for  elementary students and teens to understand. Solheim’s pacing makes his engaging story a quick read. Pen and ink illustrations are scattered throughout the book and contribute to the story. Ali’s Bees would be a good book for families to read and discuss together and a great classroom book.

Bruce Olav Solheim served for six years in the US Army as a jail guard and helicopter pilot during the war. He has written five books and seven plays. He is a distinguished professor of history at Citrus College in Glendora, California. Solheim founded the Veterans Program at Citrus College and cofounded the Boots to Books transition course, which is the first college course for returning veterans. Solheim was born in Seattle, Washington, to Norwegian immigrant parents

*The author provided me with an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

22 thoughts on “Ali’s Bees by Bruce Olav Solheim

  1. Thank you for your wonderfully kind review. My greatest wish is that Ali’s Bees promotes peace, love, and understanding.

    On Sun, Oct 29, 2017 at 3:02 AM, Children’s Books Heal wrote:

    > Patricia Tilton posted: ” Ali’s Bees Bruce Olav Solheim, Author Gabby > Untermayerova, Illustrations CreateSpace, Fiction, Jul. 14, 2017 Pages: 142 > Suitable for Ages: 7-12 Themes: Immigration, Iraq, Loss, PTSD, Bees, > Intergenerational relationships, Tolerance, Friendship Pu” >


    • Bruce, I’m glad you liked the review. I was really moved by your story. It covered so many important themes. Thanks for leaving a comment because it helps readers understand your intent. My review was supposed to release tomorrow morning! It will be posted in author, Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays links tomorrow.


  2. Love this very moving story. The themes are so real and universal it will be around for a long time to come. I can see this being very popular in schools, helping kids understand difficulties others have with shifting to a new country or simply just trying to fit in and coping with different behaviours and how we can all do so much to help. A must read for me and one I will certainly get for my nephews. Thanks to your wonderful review, Pat.


  3. Thank you for the review. This is a great subject matter. And bee’s to me are scary, so this is a different way to look at them.


    • You learn a lot about bee-keeping in Bruce’s story and it is so key to Ali’s healing and learning about teamwork — just like bees. I’m allergic to bee stings, but I love learning about them.


  4. Another story that will help children understand the difficulties some children experience. PTSD isn’t always visible and is often misunderstood. Thanks for reviewing this book and I do hope the author’s wish comes true.


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