Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin




Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Listen For The Hum. Listen For The Buzz.

It's still early here in northern Michigan.  A frost advisory was issued for Sunday night into Monday morning.  The hyacinths have come and gone but the daffodils and tulips are still blooming.  Many of the fruit trees are blossoming but the buds on the lilacs are still tiny and closed.  Some of the peonies have large rounded globes waiting for more water and heat before opening. 

Still missing is the steady, singular hum of honeybees moving from flower to flower.  Seeing them is becoming far more exciting than sighting the first birds.  Seeing them means much to life on our planet.  The Honeybee (Atheneum Books For Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, May 8, 2018) written by Kirsten Hall with illustrations by Isabelle Arsenault enlightens us as to the daily valuable work of these busy insects.

A field..
A tree. 
Climb it and see . . .

Fields of flowers stretch to the horizon.  In the stillness of watching, a soft sound floats on the air.  It's getting closer and louder.  It's like hearing one of the Earth's heartbeats.  It's a honeybee!

Its four wings, two in the front and two in the back, are creating a welcome song.  It searches in circles and loops.  It finally succumbs to the lure of the ultimate flower.  A flower filled with the sweetness of nectar.  First a sip, then the gathering begins.

The pollen hanging like tiny golden baskets from the bee are carried back to the hive.  A conversation and a dance take place with information exchanged.  The pollen, laden with nectar ,is chewed and chewed and chewed until it's thick and gooey.

This thick and gooey goo is stuffed into the honeycomb cells.  Four wings on multiple bees flutter like fans to cool and dry those stuffed honeycomb cells.  At last the bees have HONEY! 

Spring and summer sun pass and autumn coolness arrives.  A queen beckons to her workers.  Winter descends and residents of the hive rest.  They rest and move to protect the queen, sure in the knowledge when spring comes, their task begins anew.


The words of Kirsten Hall are as if she is holding out her hand, asking us to take a walk with her.  It's a whispered conversation inviting our participation.  Their melodious rhythm and gentle rhyming bring us with admiration into the world of the honeybee.  Here is a passage.

This is the flower the bee has chosen.
This is the flower the pollen grows in.
This is the flower, its color so bright,
its sweet blooming scent calls the fee from its flight.


Rendered using ink, gouache, pencil, and colored pencil by Isabelle Arsenault the illustrations throughout but beginning on the opened dust jacket will delight and invite.  Various hues of golden yellow are prevalent.  The shades of blue, green, red and pink create a harmonious blend.  The honeybee winging its way across the top looks as if he is asking us to follow.  To the left, on the back, the same worker in a field of soft golden yellow is pushing a huge globe of goo toward a honeycomb.  A look of accomplishment is evident in its facial features.  Spot varnish is used on both the front and the back of the jacket.  The honeybee feels fuzzy when touched.

The opened book case covered in deep orange, golden yellow shows the dotted, looping path of the honeybee from left across the spine to the right.  In the upper, right-hand corner it looks at us, smiling.  The opening and closing endpapers are done in a pattern of large black and yellow bands, like a honeybee's body.

Beneath the text on the title page the field of flowers extends from left to right in softer tones.  Isabelle shifts from images spanning two pages to single pages and then to a cluster of four smaller pictures.  She replicates and enhances the movement of the narrative with her illustrations.

We are among the flowers zooming in and out of plants.  We sit among the petals sipping nectar and collecting pollen.  Then we buzz into the darkness of the hive, completing the task and making the honey.  As the seasons shift we enjoy every change with the honeybee.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is inside the hive.  The background is a shadowed black.  It is a single page visual.  Two honeybees are speaking to "our" honeybee.   Larger than life they are asking questions and looking at us.  Every detail is delicate and delightful.  It looks as though they are wearing high white collars tied with a bow.  One of the honeybees is carrying a blue flower and the other is leaning toward the newly arrived, pollen-laden honeybee.


Marvelous to read for the lovely words and illustrations The Honeybee written by Kirsten Hall with illustrations by Isabelle Arsenault is also a loving tribute to these necessary and amazing creatures.  A final page is a letter Kirsten Hall has written to readers listing the attributes of honeybees and how we can help them.  I am already planning on using this book with fiction and nonfiction titles referencing honeybees and bees.  Some titles I will use are Bee & Me, Honey, Please Please the Bees, Bear and Bee, and The Case of the Vanishing HoneybeeI highly recommend The Honeybee for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Kirsten Hall and Isabelle Arsenault please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Isabelle has an account on Instagram.  At the publisher's website you can view interior pages.  School Library Journal includes this title with other books in a post The Buzz on Bees | The Hive, The Honey, The Hope.  Four years ago Kirsten Hall was interviewed on As The Eraser Burns

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