Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera by Candace Fleming

Honeybee The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera by Candace Fleming

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann (9780823442850)

On a summer morning, a new bee hatches in a hive. She is Apis mellifera and must rest before she can do anything. She eats and grows stronger, her color changes from gray to a yellow orange. Though she is destined to fly eventually, first she must do many other jobs for her hive. She tends to the larvae, checking on them and feeding them with liquid from her glands. After eight days, she changes jobs and starts tending to the queen bee. At 12 days old, she heads to another job and starts building honeycomb then fills it with the nectar the other bees bring in. Her next job is to guard the hive from predators and other bees from different hives. Then finally, on her 25th day, it is time for her to fly. And does she ever fly! She flies for over 500 miles total and visits over 30,000 flowers! 

Frankly, I have never understood honeybees better than I do now after finishing this nonfiction picture book. Fleming writes in such an engaging way, inviting readers to wonder when Apis will actually get to fly for the first time. The various changes to Apis’ body as well as the variety of duties she has in the hive are very interesting and make the species all the more fascinating. 

Rohmann’s illustrations bring readers right into the hive, seeing it from a bee’s point of view. His rich illustrations are filled with honey gold and bright summer skies that beckon to readers, inviting them to lean in even closer.

A great science and nature book, there’s plenty of buzz about this one! Appropriate for ages 4-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Beehive by Jorey Hurley

Beehive by Jorey Hurley

Beehive by Jorey Hurley (9781481470032)

This simple picture book focuses on bees and beehives. The book follows bees that explore the area, find a hollow tree just right for a new hive, and build there. They lay eggs and then care for and feed the immature bees. They sometimes need to defend the hive from predators too. When the new generation of bees emerges, they go right to work too, continuing to care for and build up the hive.

Told in single words, the story really plays out in the illustrations which are done in Hurley’s distinctive style. Her simple text is just right for very small children learning about bees and the environment. Hurley’s author note cleverly uses the single words within the book as a structure for more information on bees as well as a comment about the recent decline in bee populations. The digital art is strong and has large shapes that will work very well with a group of preschoolers.

Buzzy and busy, this book is a glimpse into the life of bees. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Simon & Schuster.

Book Review: Bee & Bird by Craig Frazier


Bee & Bird by Craig Frazier

A simple wordless story is made remarkable by bright, graphic illustrations.  This is the story of a bee and a bird and their journey, but what journey are they on?  They are in a tree, the tree is on a truck, and then could the truck be driving on the back of a cow?  Then there’s a boat on an ocean, that is actually a toy boat.  As perspectives shift, the epic adventure becomes more of a neighborhood jaunt.  It’s a trip that readers will happily make with the pair, finding surprises at almost every page turn.

Frazier, author of the wonderful Lots of Dots, has created another great book for children.  His vibrant illustrations use bold colors, strong shapes, and inventive perspectives to turn a normal day into a series of surprising twists.

Art teachers will embrace this book for its clear depiction of perspective.  At the same time, it is also a rocking picture book that young readers will equally enjoy.  Appropriate for ages 3-6, older when used to discuss perspective.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

Also reviewed by

Check out the book trailer for some of those perspective shifts:

The Honeybee Man: The Beauty of Bees


The Honeybee Man by Lela Nargi and Krysten Brooker

On a quiet summer morning, Fred heads to the roof of his home in Brooklyn where his bee hives are.  With his cup of tea, he spends time with the bees, thinking about the honey they will make for him.  He imagines flying like a bee and looking for nectar.  He encourages the young bees to have courage on their first flights.  He celebrates the older bees as they throw themselves into the air, some stopping to land on his sleeves first to greet him.  He knows they will return full of nectar that then will be made into honey by others in the hive.  At the end of August, Fred harvests the honey from the hives, resulting in golden jars of sweetness that he shares with his neighbors.  This is a book about communities large and small, interwoven together.

The language in this book is lovely and evocative.  It is a book that creates small moments of celebrations.  Here is a passage of Fred’s morning in July greeting the bees:

Fred inhales the smells of a summer city morning: maple leaves and gasoline and the river and dust.  He turns to the tiny city and inhales its smaller, sweeter smell – a little like caramel, a little like ripe peaches.

All of the senses are filled with the experience of urban bee keeping in this book.  It is packed with these sensory moments.  The language is poetic and beautifully detailed.

The mixed-media illustrations have a whimsical feel to them.  Just as the book itself does, they celebrate Brooklyn, urban life, and the bees.  There is a homey, warm feel that is often lacking in books about cities that is a pleasure to see.

Celebrate bee keeping, city life, and community with this book.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House.

Jam & Honey: Natural Sweetness


Jam & Honey by Melita Morales, illustrated by Laura J. Bryant

This quiet, gentle book tells the story of a visit to an urban berry patch from two points of view, a girl and a bee.  The girl is headed to the berry patch to pick berry to make into jam.  Her big worry is running into bees, which she does.  But she remembers what her mother told her about staying still and that the bee was interested in nectar not in her.  The bee is heading to the berry patch for nectar to make into honey.  He is worried about running into a human there, which he does.  But he remembers that humans are interested in the berries, so he just flies past.  This parallel story offers a glimpse of urban gardening and emphasizes the importance of our food and other creatures.

Morales has written the book in a verse format that has enough rhyme to make it friendly and bouncy.  There is a rather jaunty tone to the book, making the encounter with the bee less scary than it could have been.  The emphasis is on making food, whether it is by the girl or the bee.  The two halves of the book are written in very similar verse, often repeating patterns from the earlier one.  This ties the two stories together even more firmly.

Bryant’s art makes sure that the reader knows that the book is set in an urban setting without covering it in graffiti or garbage.  Instead, we see a warm friendly neighborhood filled with flowers, pigeons, and bees.  She imbues the illustrations with a natural feel, always having the reader look past greenery and through plants. 

A great pick for insect units or story times or ones about food.  It could also happily be used as a late summer story when the berries are plump and ripe.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House.

The Humblebee Hunter

The Humblebee Hunter: Inspired by the Life and Experiments of Charles Darwin and His Children by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Jen Corace

Told from the perspective of Etty, one of Charles Darwin’s daughters, this book is an invitation into the lives of the Darwin family.  Etty does not want to stuck inside with her mother and Cook learning to make honey cake.  She would much rather be outside with her father helping with his scientific observations.  The children grew up asking questions just like their father.  They measured worm holes, experimented with seeds and salt water, counted snakes, and captured moths.  So when her father appeared at the door and asked her to bring out the flour shaker, Etty happily did so.  The question was how many flowers a humblebee would visit in a minute.  The flour would make the bees the children would be observing more easily seen.  And what is the answer to the question?  You will just have to read the book to find out or dust your own humblebee with flour!

I was immediately charmed by the illustrations of this book.  They have an old-fashioned feel merged with a modern edge.  The colors used are vintage and immediately place the story in the correct era, but the illustrations themselves are crisp and add interest.  Hopkinson’s text is equally successful.  The pacing is varied which makes for an interesting read.  From the slow pace when Etty is inside baking and remembering her father’s stories to the brisk pace and excitement of following a bee from flower to flower. 

This book will make every child want to have dust a bee with flour and observe them.  It is a book that has you itching to head outdoors and measure your own worm holes or capture moths.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by Charlotte’s Library.

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