Terry Jones Ellis's The Life of a Baby Bee
Children's book review by Steve Barancik
3 book series about bees, fanciful AND informative
Author Terry Ellis Jones tells quite a story, starting with a true one.
A letter to the reader serves as the introduction to these books, explaining Ms. Ellis's interest in bees, an interest that began with a hummingbird feeder (the bees took over!) and resulted in Ms. Ellis and her husband becoming beekeepers themselves.
It's a bit of background information that enhances a reader's experience of the books, which, although fiction (unless bees speak English!), contain not only some interesting bee facts but secondary characters, beekeepers, that clearly bear some resemblance to Mr. and Ms. Ellis themselves.
Meet Baby Bee. As a newborn in a hive full of them, he's left to figure things out for himself, starting with what exactly he is. Is he a worm? A caterpillar? (Baby bees start out kind of wormy.) But then one day, he grows wings.
He must be a bird! His suspicions seem confirmed when he gets in the way of an older bee (Beethoven) who calls him, "Birdbrain."
Baby bee is a little too young to know an insult when he hears it.
Slowly, over the course of the series, Baby Bee comes to put two and two and two together, and realizes that he himself is a bee, a male bee, to be precise. (Along the way, he learns that his mother is the queen, so he dubs himself Prince George. Of course, everybody in the hive is borne of the queen.)
In the third book, George learns that all is not well with the hive, or with honeybees in general. (If you've heard of Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, you know what he's talking about.) And when all is not well with the hive, well, all is not well for us either, because we rely on honeybees for so much of our food, and so much of what's beautiful around us.
George prevails on the beekeeper's wife to get the word out. And clearly, with these three books, she has.
The Life of a Baby Bee, Days 1-3
Author Ellis is also the illustrator. Her pictures are colorful, childlike and engaging, and she's one of those generous artists who provides more to look at than simply what's going on in the text, which is playful as well.
The books, I'll note, are self published. And while self publishing generally has some negative connotations, when it's properly executed by an author (and illustrator) with vision, the result can be books that break the mold in a pleasing fashion.
Days 1, 2 and 3 in The Life of a Baby Bee are just such books. (Though Day 3, in particular, could have benefited from an editor encouraging the author to give main character George a narrower focus.)
Each book contains true facts about honeybees on the back cover. Day 1 contains an additional coloring page, and Day 2 features a section with photos and great information about beekeeping.
One other thing...
Days 2 and 3 cannot rightfully be called sequels. All three books are part of a single story, and purchasers of one book will not be treated to an ending, more of a to be continued. Translation: I do not recommend buying only one book from the series. The Life of a Baby Bee requires real commitment!
Fortunately Ms. Ellis has priced all three books to move, as they are available as inexpensive paperbacks from her website, Little Bee Books. Turn bees from a focus of fear to one of fascination!
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