The Secret Life of Bees is Everywhere

July 7, 2011 — Leave a comment

The book I have run across the most frequently in used book locations is Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees. Actually, this is a book I wanted to collect since I remember reading the novel and thinking, “maybe students would like this one?” At every book sale, there are a plethora of romances and mysteries available (Danielle Steele and James Patterson must be making fortunes!), but I head to the trade paperback table labeled fiction first….and there is almost ALWAYS a copy of The Secret Life of Bees.

The novel was first published in 2002, and the protagonist, 14 year old Lily Owens, is an engaging character. She leaves her abusive father and eventually finds herself living with bee-keeping Boatwright sisters. By the end of the novel, Lily reasons her father would want her to stay; ” you’re better off there in that house of colored women. You never would’ve flowered with me like you will with them.” The book is an easy read and remains on a number of “ongoing favorites” for book club suggestions.

The novel is also a nice companion piece for To Kill a Mockingbird and covers many of the same topics and themes as those covered in Harper Lee’s classic novel. Because of the protagonist’s age,  the book was included in 2010-2011 in the Coming of Age unit in Grade 11, but the novel could also fit into any Civil Rights unit just as easily. I am not sure that this would be a core text, but the book does work well in literature circles or with student self-selection.

The edition I have found the most frequently is the yellow/blue bound trade paperback released in 2003. The design is attractive and the color scheme seems to separate it from other books on a shelf or table. There was a film release copy in 2008 (with Dakota Fanning as Lily on the cover), but that is not seen as frequently in the used book market as much as the original trade paperback. Interestingly, I have never seen a hardcover edition of this book in any used library book sale or thrift store. Is the hardcover of this text like a baby pigeon? One never really sees baby pigeons, but they must exist somewhere!

At this time, there are 67 copies of The Secret Life of Bees in our book room. That means that I have spent less than $70.00 for two class sets (30 + each) of this text. Currently, on Amazon the retail price for the trade paperback is $9.00; to purchase the same amount of book new would be $603.00….a savings of $533.00! I am not sure that I will need to continue to collect this text; my junior teacher says we have enough. If I do get additional copies, they will have to be in pristine condition. That may be difficult, because all these copies have been gently-or less gently- used. That could be a tribute to Sue Monk Kidd….although they have been given away, people have bought AND read her book! Maybe the readers really just wanted to share the story?

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