STOP THE PRESSES!!!
Here I was, ready to feature a completely different book this week for Women’s History Month, when this book usurped its place. I feel it is fitting because worker bees are female, AND as the back matter states:
“One out of every three mouthfuls of food in the American diet is, in some way, a product of honeybee pollination—from fruits to nuts to vegetables.”
This is the nonfiction I wish I’d grown up with!! More than fascinating, the marriage of text and art in this book is masterful, creating an immersive experience second only to actually living inside a hive or watching a BBC documentary that takes you there.
Just when does a worker bee take her first flight? Inquiring minds will ponder that question page after page while she performs a series of sequential jobs within the hive and then, finally, flies! Look at this magnificent gate fold!
And then follow along as she searches for nectar, pollinates flowers, and returns her load of nectar to the hive, over and over again in her short life.
When I got to the page where Apis is nearing the end of her life, after she
“has flown back and forth between nest and blossoms, five hundred miles in all. She has visited thirty thousand flowers. She has collected enough nectar to make one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey. Her work is done.”
—I choked up.
This book is a keeper. Sorry, it was waiting to be said.
I have been schooled by the Fleming-Rohmann team in creating empathy for an insect. I’ve also been schooled in the art of tension-building through page turns based on the question “Flying?” Masterful. I cannot use that word enough. And the illustrations? Bees so intimately presented that I feel part of the sisterhood of the hive. So moved that I want to send our dearly departed Apis off with a proper funeral (with flowers) and words of thanks, celebrating her self-less life as I dip my teaspoon into a jar of honey.
As Betsy Bird said, “If you buy only one bee book for the rest of your life, make it this one.” I agree.
Watch a short National Geographic video about Honeybees (great for younger kids)
Hand craft your own bees
Read poems about bees, observe them outside (if possible, if not watch one of the videos listed above), and then write your own poems.
Title: Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera
Author: Candace Fleming
Illustrator: Eric Rohmann
Publisher: Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, 2020
Themes: honeybees, empathy for insects
For more perfect picture book recommendations, visit Susanna Hill’s website.