Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Earth Week 2021 #2

Sometimes, the smallest living beings on our planet have one of the greatest impacts.  Our world, our Earth, would struggle greatly without their presence.  They are directly responsible for the growth of food keeping a multitude of individuals alive.  In fact, they produce food necessary and enjoyed by countless others.

Bees are an essential link in the chain of survival on a global level.  On December 20, 2017, at the United Nations, May 20 was designated as World Bee DayBruno the Beekeeper: A Honey Primer (Candlewick Press, March 2, 2021) written and illustrated by Aneta Frantiska Holasova (translated from Czech by Andrew Lass) presents information about the aspects of different bees residing in beekeeping hives, the hives, and beekeepers.  It follows the work of Bruno through four seasons of beekeeping.  

In his heart and soul, Bruno is a beekeeper.  But how did it all begin?  When he was still a small bear, he enjoyed a carefree life full of mischief and fun, as is usually the case with little bears.  He used a slingshot, he wandered outdoors, and he played in the forest, where he much preferred to be rather than in school.  

Life had other plans for Bruno; he was gifted through inheritance with his grandfather's bees.  These bees, we are told, are like other flying insects, but each of three kinds have specific tasks.  We learn of worker bees, drones, and queen bees.  Diagrams explain their anatomy.  Words and pictures clarify their development.

The four main parts of a hive are discussed, as is beekeeper garb.  We are warned of those creatures prone to attacking bees and their way of life.  Next, we step, season by season, into the realm of Bruno's beekeeping.

In late summer and autumn, Bruno prepares the bees and the hives for winter.  Every item, supers and combs, is carefully cleaned and stored.  Beeswax and propolis are removed.  Grandma helps Bruno make new food for the bees' feast during winter.  Did you know beekeepers listen to their hives in the winter to know they are safe?  During winter months, Bruno and Grandma work to repair portions of the hive and build new ones prior to spring.

With spring comes flowers and a special food for the bees made by Bruno.  What do you think it is?  (You'll never guess.)  The queen is gently marked.  Those objects previously removed are returned to their positions in the hives.  Let the swarming start!  It is now summer.  Honey harvesting is meticulously done in earnest.  Bruno and Grandma enjoy the fruits of the bees' labors and their own.

With the preface supplied by Aneta Frantiska Holasova, we begin to shadow Bruno in his world of beekeeping.  First, short paragraphs and well-labeled pictures inform us of the facts about the tiny creatures about to become an intimate part of Bruno's life.  It's like when doing research before you try a new endeavor.  During each of the seasons, a conversational narrative takes us through each of the steps needed in caring for the bees and hives.  At times, the focus is on a particular portion of that management.  Other times, we follow the process for using beeswax, propolis, or the honey.  Here is a passage.

Removing the Supers
In late summer, Bruno the beekeeper removes the
supers from the hives and prepares them for the
next year.  He must work very carefully and clean
all the supers of the bits and pieces of old wax
and propolis.  When he's finished, he places them 
in the honey house.  It is dry in there, and mice 
can't get to them.

The back and front of the open book case give readers a first look at the warm and glowing color palette used by Aneta Frantiska Holasova, as well as the intricate details prevalent in all her images.  All the elements on the front, right, are varnished except for the text.  To the left of the spine, we find a blurb and author information above three small pictures of Bruno at work with his hives.

A crisp white covers the opening and closing endpapers.  On the first set, on the left side is a single hive.  Swarming from the hive is a cloud of bees which weave off the far-right side.  On the second set, the swarm continues to the middle of the right side.  Here a single bee is leading as the group moves higher and higher.

Bees dot the pages before the title page.  Here Bruno moves a part of the hive as bees keep him company.  These watercolor pictures by Aneta Frantiska Holasova are delicate, exquisite, and enchanting while being informative.  When facts are given about insects, flowers, and pests, it is as if we are reading scientific journals.  The diagrams are fantastic.  Careful readers will notice, though, some humor tucked in other places.  

When Bruno is engaged in his beekeeping activities there is a combination of single-page illustrations with smaller explanatory pictures.  We are given varying perspectives depending on the undertaking.  For each of the seasonal divisions there are colorful pastoral scenes. There are multiple images without words.

One of my favorite combination of pictures is for the text titled Listening to the Bees.  On the left side are three panels, one large and two smaller squares on either side of the text.  To the right is a full-page visual.  On the top of the left, Bruno sleeps in his bed, hugging his teddy bear.  His feet extend past the covers.  On the floor is a large jar of honey, his socks, pants, slippers, and a curled furry companion beneath his bed.  Next to him on a table is a clock counting down the seasons.  It points to winter.  It is featured, closer, in one of the square images.  On the wall is a bee portrait.  In the second square illustration, Bruno is awake and stretching.  In the full-page image on the right, Bruno is shown outside as snow falls.  He is listening to the hives with a special tube.

Readers will immediately establish a connection with this beekeeping bear as he protects and provides for his bees.  In Bruno the Beekeeper: A Honey Primer written and illustrated by Aneta Frantiska Holasova, readers will increase their understanding of bees and the work entailed in becoming proficient beekeepers.  This is certain to promote discussions about the value of bees and our part in assisting in their continuation.  I highly recommend this title for both your professional and personal collections.

Aneta Frantiska Holasova has an account on Instagram.  At Penguin Random House you can view interior images.  

Last month a new title was added to a stellar series.  In the first three books, If Sharks Disappeared, 2017, If Polar Bears Disappeared, 2018 and If Elephants Disappeared, 2019, we discovered how valuable each specie is to the existence of all other species. If Bees Disappeared (Roaring Brook Press, March 16, 2021) written and illustrated by Lily Williams stresses the urgency necessary to protect bees, all more than 20,000 species

Kent is known as the "Garden of England" for its rolling hills and lush landscapes.  The creatures that live here are
             spiky, and . . .

They are small, but mighty in their purpose.  We discover bees are a keystone species.  In a word, they are essential.  Did you know honeybees appeared about 35 million years ago?  Bees are pollinator champions, the best in the world.


Honeybees are considered a superorganism.

Each of the inhabitants in the hive cannot survive without the others.  The queen, the drones, and the worker bees (females) have individual parts to play.  Honeybees have a huge problem, Colony Collapse Disorder.  Entire hives die together for several reasons, like pesticides and dwindling habitats.  

If we were to suffer the loss of bees, all the plants they pollinate would be gone or drastically change.  Would you want your favorite fruits to disappear?  The birds which rely on these fruits for food would vanish, as would the larger birds that rely on them for meals.  Without birds, pest populations would increase.  This is a grim possible future.

The effects would be global.  Everything we now have, plants, animals, food, and landscapes would be greatly altered.  Pause for a moment to consider what you eat, how plants provide for us in other areas other than food (medicine), or a world absent of birdsong.  It is with gratitude the plight of bees is newsworthy, and there are those striving to keep them thriving.

As this narrative unfolds, you can hardly turn the pages fast enough to learn about the impact bees have on our world.  Lily Williams through her research accurately and completely builds, connection by connection, the history of bees, honeybees, how hives work and the dangers to them.  A gentle tension increases as she presents the domino effect of their loss to other plants and animals.  With pacing and page turns, she introduces with a repetitive phrase very real scenarios.  Paragraphs end with a declarative sentence which is used in the next If.  Here is a passage.

If honeybee pollination disappeared . . . (page turn)

favorite foods like apples, blueberries, avocados,
almonds, chocolate, and coffee would become rarer.
Fruits are important to many people's diets.

The vibrant display of flowers on the right, front, spans over the spine and to the left edge of the back on the matching and open dust jacket and book case.  The title text and the large bee on the right are varnished.  The dotted lines around the bee indicate bees' disappearance.

The purple and yellow daisy-like flowers are larger on the back with a delicate blue butterfly resting on one.  A large sunflower fills the upper and middle portion of the left side.  A honeybee is in the center.  Another flying insect buzzes across the top. 

On the opening and closing endpapers, each one different, are PLANTS HONEYBEES LOVE.  In full color they are placed on a light golden yellow canvas.  Each one is labeled with its common name.

A double-page picture fills the verso and title pages.  The children from the front are with an adult gardener in the English countryside.  Artist Lily Williams includes elements in this scene favorable to bees.  Will readers be able to identify the "house" on one of the fenceposts?

These illustrations 

created digitally in Photoshop

are animated and engaging.  We are treated to double-page scenic pastoral views and double-page closeups of a bee among flowers.  A widening ribbon, on two pages, filled with all kinds of labeled bees leads to honeybees.  On one of the double-page images, Lily Williams includes smaller enlargements of sections of a hive.  As the loss possibilities are presented the colors deepen.  In the final pages, with hope offered, the hues brighten again, leading us to the final fabulous closeup.

One of my many favorite pictures is a closeup of a bee zipping into a floral garden.  We are at eye level with this tiny being.  A glorious array of flowers in pinks, yellows, blues, and numerous shades of green is spread before us.  Slightly right of the gutter is an expanding glow from the shining sun.  This image is so inviting you want to lie in the grass, smell the flowers, and watch the honeybee.

This fourth book, If Bees Disappeared written and illustrated by Lily Williams, in this important collection will have readers eager to do what they can to make sure bees are with us for a very long time.  On the final four pages Lily Williams includes, sections titled Glossary, Honeybees Are In Trouble, How You Can Help Save Bees, Author's Note, Acknowledgments, Bibliography and Additional Sources.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal bookshelves.

To learn more about Lily Williams and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  At her website you can view some of her marvelous two-page pictures for this book.  Lily Williams has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, PinterestTwitter, and YouTube.  At the publisher's website you can view other interior illustrations. 

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