Friday, June 2, 2017

Please Please the Bees by Gerald Kelley

Please Please the Bees by Gerald Kelley
Albert Whitman and Company

Rating: I'd like to give it a 6!

I have 51 books checked out from our local library right now. We brought about half of them to the Oregon Coast last weekend--the hardback library picture books were augmented by paperbacks from our own children's library in an unsuccessful attempt to make my giant library bag a little lighter. Of all those books, this one is my favorite right now.

Meet Benedict. He's a simple bear. A creature of habit. Every morning, he wakes up at the same time. He stretches and yawns, opens his door, and collects the three jars of honey the bees deliver each day.

To fuel his day, he has toast with honey and tea with extra honey. Then he sets off practicing violin, baking honey cake, knitting, and running errands.

Until one day when there are no jars of honey on his doorstep. Instead, he sees dozens of bees, flying and steadying signs: "ON STRIKE!" No more honey. Benedict is beside himself. He doesn't know what to do, but he knows his days are impossible without his honey.

A bee buzzes up to him: "We need to talk!"

Benedict: "Talk? Humph! I let you all live in my yard. All I ask is for a few jars of honey. You should be grateful. Not go on strike!"

Bee: "A few jars? Buddy, we deliver three jars of honey to you every day. Every month! Every year! Do the math, Einstein!"

Benedict even learned how to harvest honey. 
At that moment, a lightbulb in Benedict's fuzzy bear head lights up. And he gets it. And as the bee explains the poor working conditions, high demands, the number of queen bees that have quit, and how many miles and miles they have to fly to find enough flowers to make their honey, Benedict understands the problem even more. At first, he's not sure what to do, although he knows--he agrees with the bee--that change is necessary. Then Benedict does some research, a little shopping, and a LOT of work.

The result? A spruced-up hive and a new plan of action where Benedict does a lot of the work himself. The bees drop their "ON STRIKE!" signs and get back to work.

The bigger result? A children's book that is up there with the great and clever classic Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type--both that book and this one apply a complex, usually-adult subject to a children's book in just the right way. Gerard Kelley created a book to put in the laps of children that inspires and teaches about the importance of taking care of the world's bees. But this book's illustrations go beyond Click, Clack, Moo...the illustrations of Please Please The Bees are sweet and gorgeous, clever and funny. They are downright perfect.

I only wish there was an author's note or resources on the back to show young readers what they can do to "please the bees!" But the Honeybee Conservancy has some ideas. Click HERE for them, right after you head to your local independent bookstore to buy this book.

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