What is the day in the life of a female worker honeybee? After she is born, how soon can she fly? What does she do all day? Honeybee: The busy life of Apis Mellifera answers those questions and more in a beautifully illustrated and informative yet sentimentle story of a honeybee. The book starts off with the birth of Apis Mellifera, as she emerges from her small room. With playful and delightful words, Fleming describes the actions of our little honeybee and teases the reader with the question, is Apis Mellifera ready to fly? The answer for many pages is no, because the honeybee must grow strong. After that, the reader is taken through the short but busy and vital job of the honeybee. The life-like and realistic oil illustrations by Caldecott Award winner Eric Rohmann, the figurative language used, in which Apis Mellifera comes to life at the hand of award winner author, Candace Fleming and the way in which these two people bring a empathetic, almost human like pathos to an insect are all reasons why this is a must read book for young and old alike.
EVALUATION OF BOOK
While it is highly likely that most people have seen a honeybee at one point in their lives, most have never seen one magnified and larger than life. This is the perspective that illustrator Rohmann provides for the reader. Here the reader is exposed to extreme closeups of oil paintings. These paintings include images of the honeybee drinking nectar with their long tone (See Image 2), the anxiously anticipated first day of flight and eye-popping scenes of Apis extracting pollen from a beautiful purple flower. With obvious exception of films such as Bee Movie, bees are not usually the first organism to be represented using anthropomorthism. While Rohmann’s illustrations do not attempt to take away the raw beauty of this hard working insect, these images evoke human emotion. The reader is there from the beginning of Apis’s life, emerging from her cell, to her last day, slightly curled yet having accomplished so much. We all have a life cycle, and the honeybee is no exception. Rohmann captures this cycle with realistic renderings, but with a beauty and softness the oil medium captures that it captures the emotions of those reading it.
In the book, Children’s literature, briefly, Terrell, Bryan, Jacobs and Tunnell state that in a quality picture book, “the use of figurative and descriptive speech, for instance, should meld seamlessly into the narrative” (2020, p. 23). That could not be more true for Fleming’s masterpiece. Her use of figurative language paints a picture of all the goings on of the life of little Apis. Her use of onomatopoeia transforms these actions to sparkle alive in the mind of the reader:
“folds and unfolds her mouth.
Until the nectar grows
stickier.” (Fleming & Rohmann, 2020, p. 18).
This figurative language creates this incredible sense of experiencing the texture and touch of the nectar. This occurs throughout the narration, alongside Rohmann’s exquisitely illustrated oil paintings. At the end of the book, Fleming and Rohmann provide interesting facts, bibliography and available websites about bees. In the acknowledgements, many bee experts are thanked for their help in checking the accuracy of the work.
After the conclusion of the book, Fleming offers many resources and information about Apis Mellifera. The first of which is a diagraphm, complete with descriptions about the body parts of the honeybee, as well as their functions. The next pages provide the current (as of its publication) status of honeybees in America. Some facts include the following:
“A colony can contain between 20,000 and 60,000 bees” and
“Most honeybees in the United States are raised commercially by beekeepers in man-made hives” (Fleming & Rohmann, 2020, pp. 38-39).
This marriage of narrating the life of one honeybee with seamless illustrations and consequently providing more information and resources make for an excellent picture book that tells a story, but also informs the reader. A young reader who may not have been interested in science, might find their interest piqued about bees. This is of great importance because while students might be indirectly exposed to Apis in their science through a unit on pollination, this book takes them front and center to the life and impact of honeybees.
Honeybee: The busy of of Apis Mellifera offers a story about a hardworking, selfless, honeybee. There are countless books that have bees in them that range from bees as an ornamentation to an outside setting, or of images of bees near honey or like this book, bees as the main subject. However, this book is unique and compelling. It provides information in a way that is beautiful crafted, with oil paintings that could stand alone as art pieces. Fleming uses the most perfectly words to describe the honeybee’s every day tasks. Her use of figurative language, paints a picture with words for the reader. This heightens the experience of the book. Most of all, it is the marriage of these two mediums to make a work that informs children about the lives of this hard working bee that make this essential reading for any library, public or school that serves children.
Fleming, C. & Rohmann, E. (2020). Honeybee: The busy life of Apis Mellifera. Holiday House.
Terrell, A.Y., Bryan, G., Jacobs, J.S., Tunnell, M.O. (2020). Children’s literature, briefly. Pearson Education, Inc.