________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 23. . . .February 15, 2013


Big City Bees.

Maggie de Vries. Illustrated by Renné Benoit.
Vancouver, BC: Greystone Books/D&M Publishers, 2012.
48 pp., hc. & Ebook, $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55365-906-8 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55365-907-5 (Ebook).

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 3-7.

Review by Linda Ludke.

*** /4



Sophie pulls aside a leaf. "Matthew," she shouts, "a flower!"

The buds are everywhere- tiny and new, golden yellow on long, thin stems.

Grandpa looks. "Those are the males," he says. "The females will come out soon." He places the leaf back on top. "They only bloom for one day," he adds, "beginning at dawn."

Two days later, against the vine, more golden buds appear, resting on the bulbous hint of green pumpkins. The females are about to bloom.

Without bees to pollinate them, the pumpkins will not grow.

Will the bees come? Will they?"


This informational picture book follows the gardening pursuits of a family throughout a year. In the spring, Matthew and Sophie are eager to plant pumpkin seeds in their urban community garden Their grandfather explains that the seeds need two crucial things to thrive: heat and bees. In a conversational tone, the book poses the questions: "Are there bees in the big city? Will they find the children's garden?" While the family walks downtown, hundreds of honeybees make a parallel journey. Many facts are seamlessly woven into the text: "Hidden in the tree, worker bees are raising a new queen. If the old queen and the new queen meet, they will fight to the death. Instead, the old queen and half of her workers fly away, out of the park, straight into the big city." Looking up into the skyline, the children discover a beekeeper's rooftop terrace with four hives of bees.

internal art     In the summer, the long awaited pumpkin planting time arrives. While the children and Grandpa tend their garden, the bees are busy gathering nectar and pollen. As the weeks go by, the plants grow large and have lush vines ("They look like butterflies"). The children learn about pollination and why bees are necessary for pumpkins to grow. In the fall, the beekeeper invites the children to taste the honey from the hives. They are delighted to discover that "[t]he honey tastes like pumpkin!" In the winter, "the big red hive is quiet," and the children hope the bees will come again next year.

      Renne Benoit's watercolour illustrations show a variety of eye-catching perspectives, including an aerial view of bees buzzing inside their honeycomb and a close-up of a flower and a pollen-covered bee. Bustling city streetscapes are juxtaposed against the calmness of the community gardens.

      An afterword summarizes the honeybee's role in our food supply and the ramifications of the current decline in the honeybee population. Tips to help the situation, such as planting "bee-friendly plants" and creating a water garden, are also provided. Primary school children will enjoy this well-researched and engaging book .


Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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