No-one likes to be stung and it looks like the bee might be all over before the story’s even begun. Fortunately, a crack in the door of curiosity and bravery opens up the way for an joint adventure bringing plants and flowers across the grey city, delivering beauty and benefits to all city inhabitants, whether honey bees or humans.
Variations on similar theme may be familiar from The Bee Movie, The Curious Garden by Peter Brown or perhaps Big City Bees written by Maggie de Vries and illustrated by Renné Benoit but what Jay brings afresh to this optimistic, reassuring and galvanising story are the glorious details in her beautiful and textured illustrations, often using multiple panels per page, thereby blurring the boundaries between picture book and graphic novel.
Many layers of storytelling run parallel to the main plot. Repeat readings will lead you into the lives of several city inhabitants, when you peer through apartment windows, watching what happens as time passes and the plans of the girl and her bee blossom. It made me think of a recent discussion I had with author Phil Earle, in relation to his fabulous Storey Street series, where he talked about his firm belief that there is story worth hearing behind every door (or in Jay’s case, through every window). A further strand in Jay’s fabric of storytelling follows the growth of friendship between the girl and another young resident in her block of flats, as if distilling how nature can save us from loneliness and make us feel re-connected once more.
Worldwide, bees are in decline. Because of their role as pollinators, we need bees, and bees – facing the threat they now do – need us. This upbeat, optimistic, can-do example of how children are able to make a real and beneficial difference to their world will hopefully inspire a new generation prepared to make a difference.
Enthused by Bee & Me the girls and I set about creating lots of Bee Seed Tape to give away to all our fellow allotmenteers. Seed Tape is a strip of biodegradable material with seeds already imprinted in it, evenly spaced and super easy to use for speedy planting.
First we dyed (organic) toilet paper, spraying it with natural food colouring.
When the paper was dry, we stuck on seeds using a thick flour/water paste (as thick as possible, so that the moisture in it didn’t encourage the seeds to germinate). We chose to use seeds for sunflower and borage because bees love these plants and the seeds are large enough to handle easily.
Once our seed tape was dry we turned it into bees. Our bee body (which was designed to double up as a plant label) was made from a lollipop stick on which the seed types written on it.
The seed tape was wrapped around the lollipop and held in place with some black ribbon to create bee stripes. Ping-pong balls and pipecleaners were used to create bee heads, and instructions for planting the seed tape were stuck onto black cardboard wings (you can download the template here if you’d like to use ours) threaded on to the black ribbon.
Now it was time to share and plant our bee-friendly seeds so off to the allotment we went:
Here’s the seed tape rolled out before we covered it up with soil.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen such fun seed labels before!
A bit of water and now we just need to wait!
Whilst making our Bee Seed Tape we listened to:
Other activities which might work well alongside reading Bee & Me include:
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Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by the publisher, Old Barn Books.