06 November 2009

Cybils Nominee: In the Trees, Honey Bees

This informative picture book about honeybees manages to cover a lot of ground in an attractive, efficient manner (much like a bee!) The "story" is told in rhyming text perfect for reading aloud: Morning Light./ Warm and bright./ In the trees,/Honey bees! A block of text is at the bottom of most pages to supplement the rhymes and explain some of the action in the pictures. (This text is also concise enough and written at a level that most developing readers will be able to read it for themselves.) So, while "Lots of food./Nestling brood" might not include enough information for any inquisitive listeners, the explanation at the bottom of the page about how Nurse bees feed the larva more than 100,000 times will go a long way towards filling in the blanks.

The illustrations alternate between scenes of an idyllic countryside and the bustling, non-stop bee hive. For the squeamish (like me) who have a hard time with large amounts of insects concentrated in a small space, the illustrations are never overwhelming; there are just enough bees in the pictures to depict one of nature's most industrious and unflappable workers. There is a lot to admire about bees, and a thorough and well presented author's note at the end--"The Buzz About Honey Bees"--goes into further detail about beekeeping, which is not really covered in the body of the book. This supplemental information is not only interesting but helps to link honey bees and humans in a way that readers can appreciate. The book ends with a brief but current bibliography of text and electronic sources.

Because of the way information is presented for varying levels, In the Trees, Honey Bees will appeal to a broad range of readers. As a picture book, it combines bucolic visuals and a pleasant rhyme; as an informational book, it provides facts and details about a bee's life in the hive, as well as a brief study of beekeeping and sources for further reading. This is a fine example of how non-fiction can be presented to the PreS-Gr. 3 set so that it is fun and appealing.

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