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A hopeful tale of friendship and flower power, Alison Jay‘s wonderful wordless picture book Bee & Me opens with a young girl startled by a buzzing bee.
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.
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!
Other activities which might work well alongside reading Bee & Me include:
Using out-of-date seeds to create mosaic artwork. Seeds and seed pods come in the most spectacular range of shapes and sizes and are great fun for using as an art material.
Going on an after-dark walk around the neighbourhood to look in windows. Can you spot, as in Bee & Me, someone reading a book? Someone painting a picture? Someone knitting, (extra points for these) tossing a pancake or writing a story on a typewriter? What tales could be behind these glimpses into the lives of others?
Adopting a small public space in your street (perhaps by a verge or under a tree) and planting some flowers or herbs to brighten up the lives, not just of bees, but also of your neighbours? Be inspired by Todmorden’s community herb gardens or London’s Guerilla Gardeners (with examples from around the world).
If you liked this post you might like these other posts by me:
Title: Little Bitty Friends
Author: Elizabeth McPike
Illustrator: Patrice Barton
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for YOung Readers, February, 2016
Themes: spring, small animals, rhyme
Genre: concept picture book
Opening: (first two spreads)
Little bitty steps
marching one, two, three,
Little furry caterpillar,
tickle, tickle, knee.
Sharing strawberries with a wee mouse, stretching up skyward … Continue reading →
You may not know it since I don’t do a whole bunch of poetry reviews here, but I read poetry pretty regularly. My friend Cath in the Netherlands and I have a postal poetry exchange in which we choose a poem or two to send to the other every month or so. This year we decided to concentrate our poetry reading on poets we have never read before who are currently writing and who focus on nature in their poetry. I began the year with Wendell Berry and was a bit disappointed. His A Timbered Choir didn’t take flight for me. In the introduction to the book he claimed to be an amateur poet and, while there were a number of poems in the collection I did enjoy, he really isn’t the best of poets.
My next choice of poet, Joseph Massey, did not disappoint me. I don’t recall exactly how I came upon his work. I think I read about him in the Los Angeles Review of Books. He has a number of collections and since I had never read anything by him before it was difficult to choose. But when I came across a description of To Keep Time as being inspired by the landscape of Humboldt County, California, that is the one I decided to read.
What’s so special about Humboldt County? Well, when I graduated high school and decided to major in biology (I wanted to be a veterinarian) I decided to attend Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. You change a lot when you are eighteen and far away from home for the first time. Before my freshman year was out I had changed my major to English and decided I was going to teach. It meant going to a different university in Los Angeles my sophomore and following years. Nonetheless, my year at Humboldt was amazing and unforgettable.
HSU sits on a hill looking over the Pacific ocean. Stretching out behind the school are acres and acres of redwood forest. It is hands down one of the most beautiful places I have ever lived in my life. I would live there again if I could. So, poetry inspired by this landscape of ocean, redwoods, mountains, rain, fog and damp, yes please!
Massey’s poems have a haiku sensibility to them. Some are short and some are multi-parted. They are contemplative and surprising. It is the unexpectedness that I found so utterly marvelous; an image, a turn of phrase. I loved most when he would mix senses, for instance in “Microclimates”:
to hear the ocean
pierce an aperture
not wide enough
even a word—
Also from “Microclimates”:
in this persistent
What I want to say
I can’t see to say
I can’t see to say it.
I also love the alliteration and the way he takes a word like “persists” and then changes it to “persistent.” Is there a word for that technique? I have come across it before in other poets and it is something that always gives me a little thrill.
Here is “Anchoritic”:
Listening to wind
in the dark around
my room, I want
to think thinking
is enough to locate
a world, but it isn’t.
It isn’t this one.
It isn’t this world,
The word “anchoritic” is an adjective derived from the noun “anchorite.” An anchorite is a religious recluse, someone who has left the secular world to focus on their spiritual life. The poem itself is not particularly religious, but the title opens all sorts of suggestions and avenues of thought both secular and spiritual. It also suggests “anchor” as in anchored in place, but also a physical stability in the wind that is dislodging objects that contrasts beautifully with the thinking that is clearly unanchored. As you can see, the poems might be short but Massey packs in quite a lot!
I very much enjoyed To Keep Time and plan to read more of Massey’s work in the future. It is a happy occasion to discover a “new” poet.
Last weekend my charming assistant/husband helped me film this time-lapse video of yours truly painting a watercolor landscape. He also edited and produced it for me. Thanks, Jonathan! This is my first attempt at filming and isn’t my best landscape ever (the composition could be better) but it shows my painting technique and it’s (hopefully) interesting to watch it all come together. And without further ado, a painting from start to finish:
For the curious, pigments include:
Payne’s Gray, French Ultramarine, Prussian Blue, Sap Green, Quinacridone Gold, Yellow Ochre, Pyrrole Red Light, and a touch of Quinacridone Magenta, probably some other stuff.
Synthetic 1″ flat, Winsor & Newton sable flats in 1/2″ and 3/4,” Raphael Sable round #4, Winsor & Newton rigger
I read aloud The Lion Who Stole My Arm by Nicola Davies earlier this year (see post here). In that book, an African boy who is maimed by a lion attack wants to get revenge on the lion that hurt him...until he learns about lion conservation and how much tourist money lions bring to his country.
I was thrilled to see that Nicola Davies is writing a series -- Heroes of the Wild. The newest in the series is Manatee Rescue. The manatees in this book live in the Amazon River, and the characters are indigenous people.
These are quick reads -- only about 95 pages, with an epilogue that gets them to 100. The books are illustrated with pen and ink drawings by Annabel Wright.
I can't wait for a kid reader to pick this up and give me their insights into the story!
Each day my inbox(es) fill with poems-a-day from various sources, and someday I should make a study of how I decide to click and read the comparatively few that I do. Here's one whose arguably not-very-poetic title caught my eye; I wanted to see where this would go. My instincts are pretty good, I guess--I loved it.
I have this, and this isn’t a mouth full of the names of odd flowers
I’ve grown in secret. I know none of these by name
but have this garden now, and pastel somethings bloom
near the others and others. I have this trowel, these overalls,
this ridiculous hat now. This isn’t a lung full of air.
Not a fist full of weeds that rise yellow then white then windswept.
This is little more than a way...
************************ Read the rest here, and listen to Jamaal read it himself here. This poem pleases me because of the tension between the everyday register and the imprecise words on the way to a very deliberate and precise capturing of everything the speaker claims not to know. (In fact I'm adding this to my collection of "no poems," poems which create their meaning by denying it.) Wouldn't the title and its stem, "I have this, and this isn't..." be a very interesting poetry prompt for kids?
I also like the feeling of effort in this poem, repeated effort, which must be reminding me of the repeated efforts we are having to make to keep driveway and sidewalks clear,* and "return as sprout" must be about the poor green tips of a daffodil, which in December thought it must be spring and time to spear up, but which now finds itself smack in the middle of the best path we could forge from the front porch to the sidewalk and is now trampled and muddied but still green.
Catherine is hosting today at Reading to the Core, with Irene Latham's new book in the spotlight--isn't it nice that you can just click to get there instead of digging your way through feet of snow? Let us be grateful for all that is!
*This morning at 4:15 I stood at the window and watched a noisy little Bobcat bulldozer work its way up our street, hoisting scoops of chunky, icy, frozen snow from the edges of the street and dumping it onto the finally clear, dry sidewalk. Oof. More shoveling, with a side of boulder-tossing.
The soils surrounding the village where I live in the north west of England have abundant fertility. They mostly formed in well-drained, clay-rich debris left behind by glaciers that retreated from the area some ten thousand years ago, and they now support lush, productive pasture, semi-natural grassland and woodland. Although the pastures are managed more intensively than they were in the past, most of them are well drained, and receive regular dressings of manure along with moderate fertiliser, and are regularly limed, which keeps the land productive and the soil in good health.
Too Many Carrots Written & Illustrated by Katy Hudson Capstone 2/1/2016 978-1-62370-638-8 32 pages Ages 3—5 “Rabbit loves carrots. In fact, he loves them so much that they are crowing him out of his cozy burrow. When his friends offer help, Rabbit happily accepts. But will too many carrots cause too much trouble …
Bear Snores On is the first book in Karma Wilson’s series about Bear; a huggable and loyal friend, connoisseur of popcorn, and avid swimmer. It’s that time of the year and Bear has gone to sleep for a long time. What happens when several of his woodland friends happen upon his warm lair?
Bear Snores On is a great book you can use to teach young readers about seasons, hibernation, friendship, and sharing. There are so many big lessons in one small book!
Karma Wilson’s reading of Bear Snores On was filmed during Angie Karcher’sRhyming Picture Book Revolution Conference (RPBC). The purpose of the RPBC is to educate and support authors who write rhyming picture books.
KidLit TV’s Read Out Loud series is perfect for parents, teachers, and librarians. Use these readings for nap time, story time, bedtime … anytime!
Parents and Educators: Click here to download free Bear Snores On activities! Explore books written by Karma Wilson including more books about Bear!
ABOUT BEAR SNORES ON
Bear Snores On(Illustrated by Jane Chapman) – One by one, a whole host of different animals and birds find their way out of the cold and into Bear’s cave to warm up. But even after the tea has been brewed and the corn has been popped, Bear just snores on! See what happens when he finally wakes up and finds his cave full of uninvited guests — all of them having a party without him.
Karma Wilson grew up an only child of a single mother in the wilds of North Idaho. Way back then (just past the stone age and somewhat before the era of computers) there was no cable TV and if there would have been Karma could not have gotten it. TV reception was limited to 3 channels, of which one came in with some clarity. Karma did the only sensible thing a lonely little girl could do…she read or played outdoors.
Playing outdoors was fun, but reading was Karma’s “first love” and, by the age 11 she was devouring about a novel a day. She was even known to try to read while riding her bike down dirt roads, which she does not recommend as it is hazardous to the general well being of the bike, the rider, and more importantly the book. Her reading preference was fantasy (C.S. Lewis, Terry Brooks, etc…) and historical fiction (L.M. Montgomery, Laura Ingalls Wilder, etc…). Those preferences have not changed much.
Karma never considered writing as a profession because her mother was a professional writer which made it seem like boring and mundane work. At the age of 27 she realized that she still loved well written children’s books of all kinds, from picture books to young adult novels. By that time Karma was a wife and the mother of three young children. Trips to the library with her children were a combination of emotions…when they got a good book there was fun to be had by all, but so many of the books weren’t what her children wanted to listen to.
Yesterday, was National Hug Day (and Squirrel Appreciation Day, so I hope you hugged a squirrel). Yesterday was also The Big Book of Hugs release day, which could not have been a better choice. I am pleased to bring you a bear occupation I had known little about. Okay, I knew nothing about it, but …
January 21st is officially Squirrel Appreciation Day. To mark this solemn occasion, Kid Lit Reviews is pleased to bring you a feisty little squirrel destined to become a pirate. I just could not pass up telling you about Sammy on his special day. Actually, Sammy’s special day will be April 1 (no fooling), when his …
What a quiet, lovely book is The Small Heart of Things: Being at Home in a Beckoning World by Julian Hoffman. In 2000, Hoffman and his partner, Julia, moved to the Prespa Lakes region in northern Greece. The main lake, Lake Prespa is situated in such a way that the borders of Greece, Albania and the Republic of Macedonia all meet somewhere in the middle of it. The area has seen more than its share of conflict from Albanians feeling communist rule to the Greek Civil War to the break up of Yugoslavia and Macedonia becoming its own country. Hoffman discusses pieces of this history in the context of what it has done to the people who live there , their traditional ways, and the unique ecology of the place.
When Hoffman and Julia first moved to the area they made part of their living as market gardeners. Now, the pair monitor bird populations in the upland areas where wind farms are being built. As a bird expert, the book is filled with bird observations as you might expect. But it is also filled with observations of geology and how people live in and with the nature. It is a book that is deeply imbued with a sense of place and what it means to belong to that place.
More a series of essays than a start to finish memoir, each piece focuses on something different. “Homing” is about our need for finding a place we can belong and call home. “Among Reeds” is about walking through a reed bed and discovering bitterns live there. While “Time in Karst Country” is about karst, how it was created, how deceptive and seemingly barren it is. But it is more than that,
There is a distinctiveness brought about by weathering and ageing, both limestone and ourselves the inconstant ones, enduring the elements, overcoming the flaws of our inheritance. Dissolution is more than a lessening; it’s a reminder of time worn well.
Another essay, “The Distance Between Us” is a wonderful story about when Hoffman was walking on the hills above Morecambe Bay in Cumbria and noticed a man walking far ahead of him. He gradually began to catch up and then the path went down into a small, narrow valley, the man disappeared over the edge of it and a few minutes later when Hoffman arrived the man was nowhere to be seen. He was worried there had been an accident and searched around but the man was gone. This happened years and years ago but he still thinks about the man especially when he is out walking and spies a solitary person walking ahead of him. The essay then turns into a meditation on the impact strangers can have on our lives without even knowing it. And, conversely, the impact we also must make on other people’s lives that we are unaware of.
One of my favorite essays is the titular essay, “The Small Heart of Things.” It is about the successful reintroduction of the beaver to Transylvania. The animal had been absent from the country for two hundred years, trapped and hunted to extinction for their fur. The beaver was so important to the country at one time there are cities and villages, common words and surnames based on the word for beaver. The reintroduction has been a smashing success. The beavers are thriving and spreading out among the country’s waterways. And, even though there is a fund to which farmers and others can apply to be reimbursed for damage a beaver may do, hardly anyone has used it, not because there has not been damage, but because people are so happy to have the beavers back in their lives again that they accept the damage as part of the relationship.
Extinction and preservation ask of us essentially the same thing: what is the meaning and measure of loss?
And he goes on to observe:
While we may adapt to the absence of things, either easily or over time, each extinction diminishes our lives as well; each fragment as essential as the next when attempting to understand our place on the planet. Loss lessens our shared inheritance, and the world is made inescapably smaller.
The Small Heart of Things is a slim book but it is packed with such clear-eyed observations and thoughtful meditations that it feels much bigger than it is. It is a book about being part of a place, being part of something bigger than you. It tells us how to do this too, by slow, careful attention, by being present in the world and by forming relationships to the things of the world both common and rare. Hoffman reveals time and again, it is those relationships that matter most.
This month I'll be highlighting some of the top-notch poetry published in the last year--so top-notch that it was deemed by the Cybils Award Round 1 panel to be a finalist for the award. As a Round 2 judge, I'm going to share some excerpts from each book this month. Since it finally got cold here in Maryland this week, I'll begin with...
This book, illustrated by Rick Allen using a complicated combination of linoleum block prints hand-colored, "digitally scanned, composed, and layered," contains just 12 poems. Some are free verse and some are rhymed and metered. This collection has received 5 starred reviews and almost a dozen awards, including in 2014, since it was published in November of 2014.
excerpt from "Winter Bees"
We scaled a million blooms to reap the summer's glow. Now, in the merciless cold, we share each morsel of heat, each honeyed crumb. We cram to a sizzling ball to warm our queen, our heart, our home.
excerpt from "Chickadee's Song"
The sun wheels high, the cardinal trills. We sip the drips of icicles. The buds are thick, the snow is slack. Spring has broken winter's back.
This is a book trailer for Animalogy, Animal Analogies by Marianne Berkes. This was our first book together and we have our fourth book coming out Spring 2016. I love Marianne's stories and it's always fun to be a part of her world.
Mia Charro is a spanish illustrator and children’s book author, who is inspired by nature, fairytales and magic. Her illustrations are very whimsical, highlighting her love for the outdoors. When she’s not illustrating she loves nothing more than walking through the woods and writing.
Find out more about this great illustrator at her website andblog
One day, a little girl’s father does an inconceivably bad thing. Granted he is not even aware of the crime he has just committed, which for the girl makes it all the more unconscionable. She’s too late to thwart his mindless destruction and cannot save the dandelions he has just mown in their backyard. Thus […]
What is all around us, terrifies a lot of people, but adds enormously to the quality of life? Answer: chemistry. Almost everything that happens in the world, in transport, throughout agriculture and industry, to the flexing of a muscle and the framing of a thought involves chemical reactions in which one substance changes into another.
I Don’t Want to Be a Frog Written by Dev Petty Illustrated by Mike Boldt Doubleday Books for Young Readers 2/10/2015 978-0-385-37866-6 32 pages Ages 2—6 . “Let me ask you something . . . If you could be any animal in the world, what would it be? Probably NOT a frog, right? …
Rocket believes reading rocks and kids will too after they hear Tad Hills read R Is for Rocket: An ABC Story. Rocket and his animal pals go on an alliterative journey from A to Z while introducing readers to art and nature. Your early reader will enjoy seeing Bella the squirrel balancing on a ball, Owl offering a cawing crow a cookie and a crayon, and a guest appearance from Tad’s most popular waterfowl friend!
Do you have the book at home? Open up the dust jacket to find a poster of thewondrous, mighty, gorgeous alphabet! Feel free to read along too.
KidLit TV’s Read Out Loud series is perfect for parents, teachers, and librarians. Use these readings for nap time, story time, bedtime … anytime!
From Random House Kids R Is for Rocket: An ABC Book– Learn the ABCs with Rocket, the dog who inspires kids to read and write! This irresistible alphabet book from the creator of the New York Times bestsellers How Rocket Learned to Read and Rocket Writes a Story is sure to appeal to kids, parents, teachers, and librarians. From finding acorns, to balancing on a ball, to offering a cookie and a crayon to a crow, readers will love exploring the wonderful world of Rocket and his friends. The whole cast is featured, among them the little yellow bird, the owl, Bella the squirrel, and more. Even Goose from the beloved and bestselling Duck & Goose books makes a cameo appearance! With charming and delightful scenes for every letter, here’s an ode to the wondrous, mighty, gorgeous alphabet.
At first glance, it’s a simple walk through the woods, but as you slow down and look closely, using a set of special lenses which come packaged with the book, all sorts of hidden stories are revealed. Animals and plants magically appear where there were none before. Gentle prompts on each page draw in readers / listeners / viewers to look again and let themselves be surprised and enchanted by the magic.
Bestard’s illustrative technique makes use of the fact that different coloured lenses filter out different colours printed on the page, disguising some, allowing others to suddenly appear clearly. This approach makes for stylish images also when viewed without any lenses; her limited palette, her highly decorative use of patterns and the clarity of her line all add up to fresh and eye-catching illustrations.
The experience of reading the book is also very interesting. It becomes something slower and more deliberate, not a race to the end, but rather an invitation to look, and look and look again. Such close observation is sometimes hard to encourage, but here it comes naturally and is hugely enjoyable. My kids both kept checking that they’d not missed any small detail and were truly fascinated by how something so simple as the lenses changed everything.
We just had to explore the technique used by Bestard ourselves and so we set up a creation station, with lots of different shades of red, yellow, blue and green markers, plus homemade acetate visors in each of the colours. The visors (made from acetate sheets rather than cellophane because acetate is a bit thicker and sturdier) meant that the kids could put them on and draw hands-free (so to say) i.e. without having to hold the magic lenses from the book in one hand.
There was a real frisson of excitement in the air as we saw how our drawings appeared to reveal hidden secrets as we viewed them through different coloured filters. I’ve tried to show how it looked to us by making this short animation:
Whilst making our own magic images we listened to:
Going for a walk in some nearby woods and seeing what you can spot (with or without magic glasses). For folk in the the UK, The Woodland Trust has a great site with lots of resources and tips for getting out into a forest near you and having a great time. Perhaps you could join in with their ancient tree hunt? Did you know that you can use the HUG method to identify ancient trees?