Begin with a Bee by Liza Ketchum, Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Phyllis Root, illustrated by Claudia McGehee

   Begin with a Bee by Liza Ketchum, Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Phyllis Root, illustrated by Claudia McGehee, University of Minnesota Press, 9781517908041, 2021 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: ARC

Genre: Picture book

What did you like about the book?  I appreciated the effort the authors took to present information about the life cycle of the rusty-patched bumblebee with clear, lyrical prose. This circle story starts in the winter with one bee (a future queen) nestled in her hole in the ground. This remarkable creature goes from one to thousands in just a few months and the captivating full-color illustrations that accompany the text give a close up view of both the insect and her habitat. The drawings resemble intricate, full-color woodblock prints, although they were actually done with scratchboard and watercolor.  The use of negative space and ample texture, which gives scratchboard such a unique and handmade look, seems well-suited to this tale of the natural world. Readers will also be attuned to the seasonal change in the book, as a group of multiracial children play with snowballs above the queen’s winter hiding place, work in a backyard as she searches for a new home, smell blossoms as she gathers nectar, and harvest tomatoes while she buzzes pollen loose from flowers. At the end of the year, the old queen dies, but a new one waits to take her place. Back matter includes more information on rusty-patched bumble bees and their endangered status, how pollination works, and ways to help all bees.

Anything you didn’t like about it? I found some illustrations confusing. For example, a beautiful drawing in the beginning of the book shows the queen in the center of a spiral, surrounded by other bees. Yet the text has told us that there’s just one bee. Are the other bees left over from last summer and now dead? Another illustration shows the bees among eggs, but it looks like they’re on top of a lawn; except we’ve been told the rusty-patch queen likes to build her nest underground. Most of the text is easy to read, with a black, blocky, serif font on a white background. Occasionally, though, the design switches to white text on black highlighting, which I found hard to read. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  Children ages 4-8 interested in bees. I do always enjoy science books that can really be read aloud and I learned a lot about bees that was new to me.

Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? 595.799 

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: April 29, 2021

This entry was posted in *Book Review, *Picture Book, ARC, Bees, Claudia McGehee, Insects, Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Liza Ketchum, Phyllis Root and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.