'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 24 October 2016

Review: The Book of Bees

Be still my buzzing heart.

Get set to be swept inside the nurturing hum of a real life bee hive in this astonishing, stunningly-illustrated and presented large format book.

It's actually hard to know where to start with this book. The striking cover? The sunshine yellow? The exquisitely-crafted pages and immaculately researched and fascinating text? The illustrations so beautiful, it's utterly impossible to pinpoint a favourite (thought I'm sure I'll try!)?

The warm, delectable buzz?

The Book of Bees is just WOW. Wow wow wow. That should be enough but I have more to say, yes I do.

Endpapers are a bee pattern mimicking hexagonal honeycomb. Bliss. I want it on my walls.

Illustrations are that bananas-delightful combination of beautifully-rendered botanical images and modern cartooning that makes the skin prickle with warm delight. The creativity and cleverness of illustration composition actually made my eyes water with those pesky droplets that so often pop when I read great picture books. Like--it's SHEER delight. Yes, you will say 'ooooh' out loud.

Content is so very cleverly compiled and easily stretches over the book's 72 pages. Starting with bees and dinosaurs (I had no idea bees have been around 120 million years! but my, they've changed. You'll have to read the book to find out why), we move onto the construction of the honey bee's body (fascinating!) and onto bee roles, how honey is actually made, swarms, waggle dances (incredible!), favourite flowers, ancient beekeeping, modern beekeeping, pollen, the hive, myths and so much more. There are also newspaper spreads with some fantastic snippets to read.

The fabulous thing about The Book of Bees is that the content is enormously attractive and entrancing for kids, yes--as it should be--but equally so for adults. Facts and information has been masterfully compiled to educate and enlighten and thoroughly entertain, no matter reader age. Goodness knows, I spent three nights fully absorbed in each page.

Text is quite sophisticated, suiting mid- to upper-primary/elementary and middle school/early high school but younger children can absolutely enjoy and learn from the detailed visuals.

Here is just one spread so you can fully appreciate the mastery... and it's only one. There are many, many more in this divine large format tome. Click to enlarge.

On top of all this, the topic of bees is so timely and relevant, as numbers continue to [devastatingly] decline around the world. These insects are truly an astonishing marvel of nature, and really need the full attention of our children--to understand and harness how vital they are to our planet.

Kids and adults can help make a difference to our bee population by purchasing raw honey (the best kind, tastewise and for health benefits) from local suppliers. You would be surprised how many suppliers are dotted all over the world--and how accessible this raw honey is to most people. You can buy directly from a local supplier or at organic or farmer's markets and healthfood stores, and if you live super-remotely, you can also buy online. Make SURE it's 'raw' honey.

Right, I'm off to smear my toast with raw honey from my girlfriend Mary's hives in Buderim. No, not even the realisation that honey is, in essence, bee spit, is enough to sway me!

The Book of Bees is up there with my very favourite picture books of all time. Engaging, thoughtful, delightful, beautiful. Highly, highly recommended.

Title: The Book of Bees
Author: Wojciech Grajkowski
Illustrator: Piotr Socha
Publisher: Thames and Hudson, $35
Publication Date: 1 October 2016
Format: Hard cover, large, 72pp
ISBN: 9780500650950
For ages: 6+
Type: Picture Book