Hornet's Nest

Hornet's Nest

by Bart Moeyaert

"You get to choose. Either you poke a hold in the nest with your finger and get stung all over, or else you run away as fast as you can." -From the book 14-year-old Susanna lives in a village where old grudges and long-standing resentments are stifling, making even the neighbor's barking dogs a major crisis. Susanna is stuck in the middle, baffled by her beautiful,

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"You get to choose. Either you poke a hold in the nest with your finger and get stung all over, or else you run away as fast as you can." -From the book 14-year-old Susanna lives in a village where old grudges and long-standing resentments are stifling, making even the neighbor's barking dogs a major crisis. Susanna is stuck in the middle, baffled by her beautiful, heartbroken mother's betrayal of a lifelong friend. When a handsome traveling puppeteer comes to town, Susanna is inspired to stir up the hornets in her town's nest of troubles.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Opening with a scene of the narrator, Susanna Dantine, being born (she narrates from the womb), Moeyaert's (Bare Hands) novel reads like a convoluted fairy tale, complete with a character named Wolf and a dark wood. Fourteen-year-old Susanna's own flashbacks of early childhood are spliced into her present-day account of the gloomy events in her tiny European village. Nearly all the townspeople have signed a petition to get rid of the dog kennel run by Helen's husband. Helen, an old family friend, was the midwife at Susanna's birth. So when Susanna's mother succumbs to the neighbors' pressure, the teenager is outraged. In a surreal plot point, a dashing puppeteer named Wolf suddenly appears in the village. Around him, Susanna feels attractive and adventurous. At the height of the summer festival, Wolf tells her she must either "poke a hole in the [hornet's] nest" and bring the town's tensions into the open or run away. Readers may find the introduction of the book's key elements disarming, like the appearance of the puppeteer, flashbacks that reveal Helen's husband's abusive ways or the description of Susanna's father's sudden death (he was accidentally shot by a wealthy hunter while walking in the woods). Because the dreamlike quality of the tale so outweighs the actual events, readers may be hard pressed to understand the intensity of the tensions that run through Susanna's village and the outcome of her actions, which takes place offstage. Ages 12-up. (Aug). Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Fourteen-year-old Suzanne takes on her European village and her own mother in a fight over the endless barking that emanates from the dog kennel owned by a family friend. When the village circulates a petition to eliminate the dogs, Suzanne is mortified to learn that her mother has sided with the villagers by signing the petition. Thinking that she is alone in her battle to save Helen's dogs, Suzanne is encouraged by a dashing young traveling puppeteer who mysteriously appears. He urges Suzanne to either "poke a hole in the nest with your finger and get stung all over, or else... run away as fast as you can." Ultimately Suzanne decides to stir up the hornet's nest. Moeyaert effectively intertwines flashbacks into the narrative as he details Suzanne's childhood before her father's death when she was seven years old. These flashbacks help the reader make the connection between Suzanne's concern for Helen's dogs with Suzanne's undying love for her father. Moeyaert's poetic language makes the book an interesting multicultural read. Hornet's Nest, however, does not have the same appeal as Moeyaert's previous 1998 German Children's Book Prize winner, Bare Hands (Front Street, 1998/VOYA June 1999). Although the premise is admirable, the plot and action move too slowly to appeal to the taste of many teens, and Moeyaert's language use is not strong enough to inspire readers to devour it. Nevertheless those who enjoy reading about a teen strong enough to defend her convictions when she could easily give up and go along with the crowd might enjoy this novel. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P M J (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High,defined as grades 7 to 9). 2000 (orig. 1995), Front Street, 128p, $15.95. Ages 12 to 15. Reviewer: Denise Beasley

SOURCE: VOYA, October 2000 (Vol. 23, No. 4)

Life in a tiny Dutch village is anything but idyllic, at least from fourteen-year-old Suzanne's viewpoint. The noisy dogs kept by the abusive Rudy and his long-suffering wife Helen make everyone miserable, but Suzanne and her mother have a soft spot for Helen, who acted as midwife when Suzanne was born. Ever since the death of Suzanne's father, shot by a hunter five years ago, Suzanne's mother has been overprotective and depressed, yet she remained friendly with Helen. Now, however, Suzanne's mother has signed a petition against the dogs along with everyone else in the village. Suzanne worries that if the dogs are taken away Rudy will take out his anger on Helen, and she is furious at her mother. The arrival of an attractive young puppeteer emboldens Suzanne to take action, stirring up the "hornet's nest" of the little village. She contrives to set the dogs free, creating a situation that causes Rudy to be arrested and removed. Full of passionate emotions, this tale will quickly draw readers in. Suzanne's frustration with her mother, her crush on the puppeteer, her fear and bravery at taking a dramatic step to improve life for all in the village, all are palpable. A quick and engrossing read. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2000 (orig. 1995), Front Street, 128p, 99-462093, $15.95. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick; September 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 5)
Children's Literature
Told from the point of view of Susanna Dantine, a teenage girl living with her quiet, widowed mother in a small European village, this novel alternates between dismal events in the present and emotional flashbacks. With an honest voice, Susanna describes her own birth (from the womb), her father's abusive behavior and mysterious death, the town's bitter battle over noisy dogs living in a local kennel run by one of her mother's friends, and the appearance of a handsome puppeteer who comes to town for the annual summer festival. When her mother signs the town's petition to close the kennel, Susanna is shocked and appalled by her mother's actions. Like a typical teenager, she rebels and decides to take the situation into her own hands. With advice from the puppeteer, she stirs things up by releasing the dogs. Translated from Dutch, this novel jumps all over the place and doesn't fully describe the reasons behind the characters' anguish. Most young readers will have a tough time staying interested in this book. 2000, Front Street, $15.95. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Debra Briatico
School Library Journal
Gr 8-10-Moeyaert is a prize-winning author in the Netherlands, and is considered an important innovator in Flemish literature for young adults. In this oblique yet intense novel of belonging and reconciliation, 14-year-old Susanna's village is rife with discord stemming from an old family friend's barking dogs. When Susanna's mother joins the other villagers in signing a petition to banish the animals, the teen is angry at her mother's betrayal. She is also still dealing with her father's accidental death years before. A visiting puppeteer, to whom Susanna is attracted, inspires her to stir up trouble in the village's hornet's nest of grudges. With adolescent rebellion, Susanna frees the penned dogs, causing a tragic confrontation. The writing in this first-person narrative is awkward, perhaps due to the translation. Events and characters are difficult to follow, as past and present blend with an edginess that is sometimes jarring. The ending seems inconclusive. The brevity of the story and the flatness of the characters give the novel a fablelike feel, yet its lack of clarity causes the book to miss that mark. This unusual novel will appeal to a limited audience.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
One turbulent day in the life of 14-year-old Suzanne slowly reveals her past. Living with her strange, widowed mother in a small European village, which is beset with emotional conflict, she contrives to stir things up even further. Readers will struggle to discover the reasons for all of the tension in the village, aside from simple personality conflicts. It seems that Suzanne's veterinarian father was the victim of an accidental shooting by the local squire. Her mother has become something of a hermit, but they have maintained a warm relationship with Helen, a midwife who delivered Suzanne and who owns a kennel. The townspeople want to get rid of Helen's barking dogs, and Suzanne's mother suddenly decides to sign the petition, further angering the girl. Suzanne pursues a young puppeteer who visits the village during its annual summer festival, and under his influence, she decides to release the dogs. When the puppeteer catches them, Suzanne returns to her mother and hopes their wounds will be healed. Many young readers will have difficulty understanding the story, full of slow-moving descriptive passages and little action. The turmoil of the village reflects Suzanne's adolescent turmoil, her conflicts with her mother, and her lingering pain over her father's death. More literary-minded readers may, with some effort, find a story of adolescent angst that will satisfy them, but it may not be worth the energy. (Fiction. 12-14)

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Product Details

Highlights Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.81(w) x 8.49(h) x 0.65(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

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