When their father’s business fails, Eliza and Jonty Kane move to a tenement flat in Dublin city, number 16 Henrietta Street. From a crowded tenement to the dazzling world of the circus – can dreams really come true? A tale of bravery, adventure and bee charming!
When Eliza Kane and her brother Jonty move from the leafy suburbs of Rathmines to a tenement flat on Henrietta Street they are in for a shock. Pigs and ponies in the yard, rats in the hallways and cockroaches or ‘clocks’ underfoot!
When they meet their new neighbour, Annie, a kind and practical teenager and her brothers, and a travelling circus comes to town, offering them both jobs, helping Madam Ada, the bee charmer, and Albert the dog trainer, things start to look up.
When a tragedy happens in the tenements, Eliza, Jonty and their new friends spring into action.
A tale of family, friendship and finding a new home, with touch of magical bees!
The Little Bee Charmer of Henrietta Street is another wonderful children’s book by Sarah Webb. In it she vividly brings to life all the hardship of Dublin’s teeming, overcrowded tenements, where young artist Eliza and her bother Jonty move to, following the downturn of their father’s fortunes.
However despite the searing poverty all about them Eliza soon discovers true friendship as she gets to know her new neighbour Annie. The arrival of Wilde’s Circus brings excitement and colour to the drab city streets and Eliza soon finds herself not only caught up in circus life but learning all about bees and the magic of how to how to charm them from the mysterious Madam Ada.
I loved this book! I was bowled over by the huge amount of research that has gone into telling Eliza’s story. Eliza’s courage and kindness shine out on every page in this brilliantly researched and exciting novel by one of Ireland’s finest writers.
This captivating story will touch the hearts of all young readers.
This is such a beautiful book and I enjoyed every single page. It’s sad, uplifting, warm and sweet. Sarah tackles difficult subjects in a gentle, sensitive way. Eliza is a great heroine, and her world of Henrietta Street and the circus will linger with me for a long time.
Dublin-set historical fiction from the wonderfully versatile Sarah Webb & a timely look at poor housing conditions in the city, among other things. Webb draws on a variety of her passions - art & art history, animals & environmentalism, the early 20th c, strong girls & women … There are echoes here of Siobhan Parkinson's Amelia novels from the early 90s, & Anna Carey's recent The Boldness of Betty; this too zooms in on personal stories over the Big Historical Events … the historical details are woven in lightly but skilfully (I was reminded also of Judi Curtin in this regard) … Historical fiction is really really really REALLY hard & it's done well here - I tip my hat
a great read that mixes adventure and facts perfectly. It's going to be a stunner
A charming book...Such a riches-to-rags tale for children has the potential to descend into a gloom of misfortune somewhere between Jacqueline Wilson and Angela's Ashes. Happily, that’s not where Sarah Webb is leading her readers, as from their first encounter with their new neighbours in Henrietta Street, Eliza and Jonty meet only warmth and kindness, despite the poverty of their circumstances … The interdependency of bees, busily working together towards a common goal, is echoed in the solidarity of the tenement tenants, whose reliance on each other as an extended family becomes particularly apparent when a fatal tragedy occurs. Family and friendship are the threads with which Webb weaves together some curious combinations of theme, her Dublin of contrasts populated by lionesses and bees, circus clowns and wealthy snobs. There’s a Dickensian feel to the carnival of characters, and to the social class divisions illustrated in The Little Bee Charmer Of Henrietta Street. While the fortunes of the resilient, resourceful Eliza will provide a focal point for her age nine-plus readership, Webb’s story colours in the pages of history, teaching as it entertains. Due for release next week, its publication comes 300 years after the building of Henrietta Street began, and with Ireland in the throes of another housing crisis, comparisons are there to be made … Any readers yet to visit Dublin’s 14 Henrietta Street Museum will surely be inspired to do so, Webb having provided a glimpse inside these once-grand houses which were “broken up into tenement flats by greedy landlords and crammed full of families who needed a roof over their heads”. Dublin’s tenements still housed families up until the 1970s, despite several earlier building collapses, and it’s but a short step in time for Webb to make the connection with today’s housing crisis. Pointing out that “many families still don’t have a home to live in”, she quotes Focus Ireland figures of around 8,000 people homeless in Ireland today, more than 2,000 of them children. Webb’s novel succeeds in balancing hardship with happiness, while with close attention to historical detail she helps ensure that the story of Dublin’s Georgian tenements has a resonance in today’s Ireland.
two fabulous fables for young readers ... wonderful … vibrancy of life, friendships and beauty … the power of dreams and of holding on to what we believe in ... research studies in recent years show children who read at this age increase their comprehension and overall ability to process information. So there is no excuse not put these these two truly amazing books under their little noses’
A story of family, friendship and never giving up, the strands of this book (the hardship of tenement life, the traveling circus and the unique world of bees) roll together, with young Eliza as the pivotal axis, a sort of “Big Top” … The careful research into every aspect of the tale slips in easily, painting a clear and vibrant landscape of the times. For every glimpse of hardship and tragedy, there are sparkles of resourcefulness, joy and the kind of magic that can be found even in the worst circumstances … It is interesting to note how the bees part of the story echo the events of the plot, with the inclusion of “bee facts” as the heading of each chapter. Their quite dramatic, busy lives create a backdrop to the upcoming action. The bees work together for the good of the hive, and this is both example and shadow of the people of the tenements; how they support each other, regardless of their individual circumstances. (An example to us all….for all time really.) This is a gentle, wonderful book, giving young readers (9-12) a glimpse of tenement life in early 1900s Dublin (an issue often overlooked, but that still has impact today.) Filled with heartbreak, quiet determination, kindness and triumph….and bees. Charming and uplifting.
enchanting … This wonderfully written, touching tale reminds us that magic can be found even in the toughest of times and how families are not just the ones you are born into. Through a touching narrative that is full of surprises and is sure to delight and affect its readers, Webb’s words are full of compassion, encouragement, and warmth.
This book was captivating. I love the parallels between Eliza’s mum and Sarah Webb’s mum who was also a French teacher and loved bees. I think it’s wonderful how Sarah Webb brought part of her own personal story into this book and I’m sure her mum loves this fantastic tribute too. I think this is a magical book and Sarah Webb drew me right into the story with her rich and colourful language and the unexpected turns that the story took. I found it hard to put this book down and I would definitely recommend it to other readers … I would give this book 10/10 and I think that it’s best suited for readers aged 9 and up. Abigail, 5th Class, Faugher NS, Co. Donegal
a charming story
it’s a nice one for Christmas
charming story of bravery, family in all its forms and fighting for what is right. Set in Dublin, 1911, Eliza, Jonty and their dad move into the tenements and quickly learn the value of friendship and family. Superb characters and story!
tremendously well researched and paints the historical research in a highly accessible way for children … this tale is one of family, friendship, sticking together and resilience. Eliza, the main character, is tenacious, loving, adventurous and hard-working, making her the perfect role model … I would thoroughly, and without hesitation, recommend this cracker of a book for any child of age 8+ … reluctant readers were enthralled
Eliza, the heroine of Sarah Webb’s historical novel The Little Bee Charmer of Henrietta Street is also struggling to adjust to changing circumstances. Following the death of her mother and the sudden debility of her father, Eliza has moved from leafy Rathmines to the top floor of a tenement on Henrietta Street. Suddenly she is the cook, the cleaner, the wage-earner for the family, but this is turn-of-the-century Dublin, and on Henrietta Street Eliza is surrounded by children who also need to work. Webb writes assuredly about the time period, and the book is rich in historical detail, from the architectural features of the tenement to the surrounding cityscape, from the studied art of illumination to the care and training of bees. However, authenticity is never at the expense of action. Eliza’s rascally brother Jonty makes sure of that, as does the arrival of the Zozimus Wilde Travelling Circus to Dublin, with its trained animals and its bewitching bee-charmer, who casts a spell upon Eliza. For extra interest, each chapter is headed by a sweet bee fact, and the scattered illustrations from Rachel Corcoran provide a visual dimension to Webb’s winsome, heart-tugging tale
The story of the tenement houses on Henrietta Street in Dublin is one that will interest children, and for those who are not aware of the current issue of homelessness, it serves as a reminder of the ongoing nature of this societal issue and 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. The facts about bees at the start of each chapter are nicely connected to the book’s title. Overall, a timely book that will appeal to children who enjoy stories with a historical setting.
Webb’s careful research into Dublin tenement life in the early 1900s is woven lightly into the magical story of young artist Eliza and her brother Jonty
a warm story of community … the overwhelming feeling when reading this story, is that of hope as families come together to deal with what life has given them … an air of magic
Download Teaching Guides: Teaching guide to the book by Nicola Heaney
Also by Sarah Webb:
Also by Rachel Corcoran: