The Thing About Bees: A Love Letter

Readers to Eaters. Aug. 2019. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780998047799.
PreS-Gr 3–In a holistic—and wholly original—treatment, Larkin spins a buoyant monologue to his (actual) young sons about why bees are to be valued and how they are analogous to rambunctious children; the narrative is threaded with unconditional love for both subjects. Smart AABB rhymes propel the narrative, while other lyrical structures offer pauses and maintain attention: “Sometimes bees can be a bit rude./They fly in your face and prance on your food…. /And worst of all, they do this thing/called sting./OUCH!” Opening sequential panels present pollination as a love story between bees and flowers that yields fruit. Then, action-packed family scenes—“choreographed” by the artist and composed in layers—follow the African American trio as they interact with the insects, a kite, a balloon, and one another. Hand lettering, bold coloring, and textural and compositional variety (painted-over receding backgrounds; thick brushwork; and inked, figural outlines behind decorated silhouettes) add to the energy. Through child-friendly delights like “picnics with watermelon” and “smoothies with mango,” readers will understand what the world would be missing without bee intervention. While an author’s note explains that information helped him work through his own issues with bees, his conclusion speaks to universal fears: “It’s brave to try to understand the things that scare us.” A final spread presents a continuum of bees (by degrees of meanness), along with safety tips.
VERDICT Pair with Bethany Barton’s Give Bees a Chance to experience persuasive calls to bravery and bee lovefests.

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