Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

What's The Buzz About?

Two Sundays ago, my furry friend and I were taking our daily sunrise walk.  About a block from the house, we passed several large basswood trees on our right.  The buzzing sound from those trees was so loud, I paused looking for an immense hive.  There was nothing.  Near the end of our walk, coming down our home street from the other direction, we walked by another large basswood tree.  It sounded like there were thousands of bees there, but there was no nest.  At home, we slowly strolled past the large basswood tree in our yard.  The buzzing was loud, but I could not find any kind of nest or hive.  A single word popped into my mind---migration.

To the best of my knowledge though, honeybees don't migrate like monarch butterflies or birds.  The next day chatting with a friend helped me to recall something about honeybees needing to relocate.  Honeybee Rescue: A Backyard Drama (Charlesbridge, May 10, 2022) written by Loree Griffin Burns with photography by Ellen Harasimowicz offers an intriguing explanation to the sounds heard on that Sunday morning.  It is the best kind of adventure into the natural world.

This is Mr. Connery, and that is his
ramshackle barn.  The window with no glass opens into a garage with a badly leaking roof.  A few days ago, on the way to his vegetable garden, Mr. Connery noticed that the rickety old structure
was buzzing.

When he peeked through the window with no glass, he saw a honeybee colony.  Mr. Connery is a beekeeper with hive boxes for his bees.  Seeing the colony in the old barn led him to believe one of his hive boxes had become too small for the honeybee colony.  

Apparently the colony grew so fast, it swarmed.  The clever bees divide a colony in two with the original queen taking a group with her while a new queen grows at the original hive.  The bees swarm until a suitable new residence is located.  In their new home, the honeybees were making combs.  This place would not be suitable in the wetter and colder seasons.  

Mr. Connery reached out to Mr. Nelson.  Mr. Nelson is also a beekeeper.  His specialty is relocating honeybee colonies from precarious places for them and humans.  His goal is to preserve the precious honeybees.  

We next learn about the structure of a hive, a series of combs.  This structure makes it less tricky to move a hive.  Together Mr. Connery and Mr. Nelson devise a strategy to relocate the colony.  It involves a unique piece of equipment designed by Mr. Nelson. (You won't believe what it is.  Two pages are dedicated to its composition.) The honeybee-free combs are given to Mr. Connery for specific cutting.  Hours are dedicated to this strategy.  Eventually, thousands of bees are placed in a new and empty box with the combs from their garage hive placed on top.  Week by week, that hive box is moved to the area where the colony originated.  Success!

Author Loree Griffin Burns welcomes readers into this experience with conversational and informative sentences.  She sets the scene with her vivid descriptions.  As she explains how Mr. Connery and Mr. Nelson solve the problem of the honeybees in the old barn, she offers fascinating facts about honeybees, beekeeping, swarming, the design of hives, and relocating honeybees.  As the act of relocating the honeybees unfolds, we are completely captivated through her techniques of listing the strategy, asking questions and supplying answers.  It is as if we are side-by-side with the two men as they work for hours.  Here is the final sentence under Hive Structure.  

Wherever they make their home, honeybees prefer their sheets of comb to hang side by side, approximately one bee-body length apart.

In looking at the right side, front, of the open and matching dust jacket and book case, you cannot help but marvel at this view of a hive.  This honeybee's-eye view is fabulous!  Can you imagine the buzzing?  Can you smell the honey?  The first two words of the title text are slightly raised.  On the back, to the left of the spine, are photographs of Mr. Connery and Mr. Nelson, labeled with their prominent occupations in this narrative.  These images are placed on a rusty-colored background.

On the opening and closing endpapers, a color from the hive on the front of the jacket and case is used.  It is a muted orange hue.  On the initial title page, honeybees gather around the title text on a golden canvas.  For the formal title page, a two-page photograph shows Mr. Connery wearing his beekeeping suit lifting a comb from one of his hive boxes. A single bee flies away from the last letter in the title text on the right.  

These exquisite photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz take us directly into this rescue.  The sizes of the illustrations vary from one and one half pages, full-page pictures, white-framed smaller photographs and dramatic two-page visuals. The perspectives shift to enhance the narrative, bringing us intimately into the events shared by Mr. Connery and Mr. Nelson.  

Through the pictures of Ellen Harasimowicz, we stand inside the ramshackle barn looking up at the newly formed colony after the swarm.  We are near a swarm, watching scout bees come and go and the old queen surrounded by the honeybees who followed her.  We watch in amazement as Mr. Nelson works with his particular piece of equipment.  We hardly dare to breathe as Mr. Nelson releases the thousands of bees into their new hive box.

One of my many favorite photographs spans a page and a portion of the previous page.  It is a close up of combs inside a hive.  Here we can see spacing between the combs and the golden colors of each of them.  These combs are covered with bees busily at work.  In looking at this photograph, we have to wonder at the accomplishments of such tiny creatures that give extraordinary meaning to the term teamwork.

The intentional, dedicated and meticulous work of author Loree Griffin Burns and photographer Ellen Harasimowicz is evident with every page turn in the title Honeybee Rescue: A Backyard Drama.  Many of the photographs within the narrative are labeled.  At the close of the book is An interview with Mr. Jon Nelson, bee rescuer.  It is done in a Q & A format.  This is followed by a glossary and an Author's Note on the next two pages.  Sources, Further Reading and Acknowledgments provide readers with more information prior to the dedication and publication information page.  I know you will want to include this stellar title in both your personal and professional collections.  We need honeybees and they need us.

To learn more about Loree Griffin Burns and Ellen Harasimowicz and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Loree Griffin Burns has accounts on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.  Ellen Harasimowicz has an account on Instagram.  At Penguin Random House, you can view interior illustrations.  At the publisher's website, you can download a seven-page activity kit.

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