Last year New York City finally made beekeeping legal, although there were already many "secret" hives on roofs scattered across the landscape. This may freak some people out, including my 6 year old, to whom I am constantly issuing the reminder, "the bees are interested in the flowers, not you." I, however, think rooftop beekeeping sounds wonderful. But, then again, I'm not allergic to bees.
Lela Nargi's The Honeybee Man celebrates the tradition of urban beekeeping. Fred, our Honeybee Man, is a balding older gentleman who wears blue house slippers and drinks tea on the rooftop. With his cat and dog, he reminds me a bit of Mr. Putter. On the roof of his Brooklyn brownstone he houses three beehives, for Queens Mab, Nefertiti and Boadicea. From his perch high above the city, he watches his bees work and imagines the places them might go. One day it is time to carefully harvest the honey, which he puts into jars and generously shares with his neighbors. The end pages give some additional and interesting information about bees.
I have a super soft spot for well-done collage illustrations and Kyrsten Brooker's shine. The color scheme, which makes the sky rather teal and the buildings a palette of browns, blues and purples is unexpected, but worked for me.
The city is a key player in The Honeybee Man and Brooker gives us multiple perspectives of the rooftop hives and the bees' journey around to the neighboring yards and plants. Nagi reminds us that the city offers a rich experience for our senses. The smells of maple leaves and gasoline, rivers and dust mingle together. Natural worlds come in large and small sizes and growling machine noises contrast with the gentle buzzing of bees. Nagi describes the intimate, tiny detailed world of the bees in the context of a larger city scape which buzzes with people. Brooker's cross section of Fred's home, divided into rectangle-shaped rooms reminds us later of the bees' homes of wood panels filled with tiny hexagonal wax rooms.
A sweet way to learn about beekeeping. (I just couldn't resist...)
Read another blogger's review at Sal's Fiction Addiction.
Find out more about beekeeping in NYC.
Fun Facts from the author about honeybees.
The illustrator also collaborated on Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street.
Big Kid says: Is there a hive on a roof around here?