- The Honeybee Man written by Lela Nargi, illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker
- Reading level: Ages 4-8
- Hardcover: 40 pages
- Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (March 8, 2011)
- ISBN-13: 978-0375849800
Back-of-the-book blurb: Every morning, Fred climbs three flights of stairs—up to his rooftop in Brooklyn, New York—and greets the members of his enormous family: “Good morning, my bees, my darlings!” His honeybee workers are busy—they tend the hive, feed babies, and make wax rooms. They also forage in flowers abloom across Brooklyn . . . so that, one day, Fred can make his famous honey, something the entire neighborhood looks forward to tasting.
She Is Too Fond of Books’ review: The Honeybee Man arrived at our house for review consideration just last week, and it has fast become a favorite of young and old, requested daily by my younger kids.
This is wonderful “realistic fiction” in a picture book format. Readers enjoy the story of Fred, who lives with Cooper his dog and Cat his cat in a brownstone in Brooklyn. Each morning after breakfast, Fred climbs a ladder to the rooftop where Fred “greets the rest of his family,” the queens and all the bees who live in the three hives on the rooftop. Nargi compares the busy bees and their hives to the people and city of Brooklyn:
All around is quiet in Brooklyn city – brownstones and linden trees, a tall clock tower, and bridges in the distance.
Near the edge of the roof is another, tiny city. It has three houses, each with two white stories and one red story, and inside, thousands of tiny rooms made of wax. From the outside, the tiny city also seems quiet.
But Fred knows that the bees inside the hives are busy, and that soon some of the worker bees will “forage in flowers abloom all across Brooklyn.”
Nargi captures the reader’s imagination as Fred pictures himself as a honeybee, swooping into the backyard gardens and parks around the borough. She weaves facts about honeybees into the story, naturally, using terms that may be new to younger reader, but are easy to decode in context (forage, waggle dance, banish and tattered are some of the words my 6-year-old questioned. I asked him what he thought they meant, and his answers were spot on).
The rest of the summer passes, and Fred harvests the honey, sharing the golden goodness with his neighbors. He shows his appreciation for the bees’ hard work with jar labels that read “Fred’s Brooklyn Honey, Made by Tireless Brooklyn Bees.”
Additional, clearly non-fiction, material about honey, honeybees, and beekeepers is in the back pages of the book. Illustrated end papers in lovely sepia tones diagram bees, flowers, and parts of a beehive.
Kyrsten Brooker’s collage-style illustrations are bright and detailed, showing the charm of Brooklyn (we spot a rooftop garden, stairs to a subway station, children playing, and laundry on a line). She shows step-by-step pictures of the harvest, so we can see what it means to smoke a hive, remove the honeycombs, and spin them to capture every drop. My non-reader could retell the story of Fred and his bees after just one read aloud, the supporting illustrations are so thorough.
As a mom, I liked this book not only for the sweet story (no, I could not resist the word sweet!) and illustrations, but also for the way my children learned by simply absorbing facts that are a seamless part of The Honeybee Man; a great addition to home, school, and public libraries. Many people don’t consider bee-keeping (gardening, poultry-raising, etc.) urban activities; this book removes the misconception that cities aren’t “green.”