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

Monday 29 January 2024

Review: The Beehive

The secret lives of bees is a thing of beauty and mystery. It’s not often we get to spend time in the vibrant heart of a beehive. 

Native bee hives in particular, although cute and accessible and now featuring in many a backyard, are equally enigmatic as access is often restricted to hive splitting rather than honey collection.

All reasons why, Megan Daley’s first foray into the magical world of picture book creation with, The Beehive is such a good fit for the Nature Storybooks series by Walker Books Australia. 

Fun, informative and factful, The Beehive is a true deep dive into the world of the Native Stingless Bee, of which there are around 2000 varieties in Australia? Well, I never.

Willow is a primary schooler with a penchant for bees. Every morning she rushes to school to spend time with the school’s local hive of native bees. Her behaviour, a reflex of the type of fascination a young child often develops after discovering something wondrous and exciting for the first time. When such discoveries happen, as they did for Willow thanks to Groundskeeper, Tom, a thirst for knowledge grows. For Willow this thirst is sated by prying as much information from Tom about the bees as possible which in turn is passed onto the reader.

This narrative stream is deftly imbued with native bee insights creating interest and occasional drama, all sweetened with a trickle of humour. Meanwhile, Willow’s story is reinforced with factual explanations and demonstrative illustrations that build a complete picture of the quirks and life cycle of the native bees while inviting would be beekeepers inside their hives in glorious macro detail.

Max Hamilton’s illustrations not only support and inform, they create an environment of blooms and resin and earth rich enough to savour with more than just your eyes. And thanks to the up close and personal nature of his pictorial representations (the endpapers alone should be a wallpaper pattern!), there is no mistaking the shape and form of our humble native bees for anything less than the beautiful, unique and hugely essential creatures that they are.

The Beehive evokes fascination and wonder and a desire for children to perhaps acquire a hive of their own, just like Willow. We have had native bees in our rainforest backyard for over nine years. They thrive on neglect and top ups of their wee birdbath, rewarding us by pollinating native blooms and vegies. Encouraging more symbiotic relationships like these in our home (and school) environments is strengthen with books like The Beehive which should be a mainstay in classrooms around Australia.

Title:  The Beehive
Author:  Megan Dayley
Illustrator:  Max Hamilton
Publisher:  Walker Books Australia
Publication Date:  1 February 2024
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781760655228
For ages:  5+
Type:  Picture Book