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Bobbi's favorite new books: Bees, garden

Many plants need busy, buzzing pollinators, but not everyone feels comfortable with bees. I have fond memories of observing bees in my raspberry garden with my younger brother but many people have been taught to fear bees because of their sting. Reading books is an easy, safe way for children and adults to become more comfortable and appreciative of these important creatures in our food webs. As threats to bee health are increasing, beekeepers are setting up colonies in even urban locations. Here are several books on bees and gardening worth tracking down.

The Honeybee Man takes place mainly on the rooftop of a Brooklyn apartment building where Fred lovingly greets his queen bees by name, Mab, Nefertiti and Boadicea, and imagines their journeys to forage for flowers which will provide uniquely flavored honey to share with his neighbors. Settle in with Fred and savor this longer story filled with details to engage the senses. Laurie Kreb’s book The Beeman employs a gentle variation of the cumulative style “Here is Grandpa…Here is his jacket…” as the grandson-narrator introduces his grandfather and beekeeping activities. Six additional pages of facts cover the basic beekeeping equipment, pollination and bee dancing before the sweet surprise ending. Don’t skip Aileen Fisher’s short poem Bees tucked in before the title page of this beautiful tribute to Kreb’s husband, a beekeeper.

How Flowers Grow, a colorful title in the Science Detective series. includes clear definitions and pronunciation guides for such wonderful big words as photosynthesis and chlorophyll in the glossary. Strega Nona’s Harvest will inspire beginning gardeners as Big Anthony thinks BIG about his harvest, hoping to outdo Strega Nona.

The Honeybee Man by Lela Nargi
High above Brooklyn, Fred delights in keeping bees on his roof. Descriptive language captures sights, sounds, smells and tastes as Fred takes care of his bees, imagines their flights in search of pollen and shares his harvest with friends. Illustrations are large enough to share in a group, detailed enough to pore over one-on-one.  Ages 4 – 8

The Beeman by Laurie Krebs
From the cover abuzz with bees to the bonus apple and honey muffin recipe, this book is a complete course in beekeeping. Grandson and Grandpa, the beekeeper, move from dressing in protective gear to extracting honey in this rhythmically told story. Primitive style paintings add details such as the cat hidden on each page.   Ages 3 – 8

Investigating How Flowers Grow by Ellen René
Instantly grabbing attention with a photo and  the story of the discovery of a huge, stinky monster plant this book provides young “science detectives” with clear definitions and numerous facts about flower parts, pollinators, and the growth cycle. Photo close-ups make details big enough to encourage further focus by beginning botanists.  Ages 4 – 8

Strega Nona’s Harvest by Tomie dePaola
Big Anthony wants to show that he can grow vegetables just as perfectly as Strega Nona. He tries to follow her sound advice: use compost and rotate crops. He even sings her planting song blowing three extra kisses to the full moon. It works! His tangled jungle takes off forcing Anthony to unload vegetables at night on local doorsteps. Mystified, Strega Nona holds a Harvest Feast for all. Classic DePaola fun. Ages 3 – 8