Bright and appealing, this book shows the plight of a bee whose habitat, Big Tree Hive, has been destroyed by human development and who desperately needs to find a new hive. There are fictional elements, such as the bee’s name (Beatrice) but children will also learn a great deal as they read.
Beatrice is a scout bee, whose job is to find a new hive. The pages which show her searching unsuccessfully are dull and brown, with the built-up environment apparently offering no possible home. Everything is over-crowded and inhospitable. Then she finds the perfect place – a colourful, wild garden built on a roof, ‘bursting with tasty blossoms’, designed for bees, with a hive ready and waiting. Beatrice leads the way to their safe new home, Big Sky Hive.
Unobtrusively, Claire Winslow shows something of bee hierarchy and behaviour, including their impressive ability to share directions and instructions. She explains to children the threat to bees’ habitat, and the helpful steps that people can take, even in an urban environment. She then expands upon this in the final two pages, which have very clear suggestions for how to look after bees and ‘help them feel at home’. These pages are attractive, informative and inclusive – every child could get involved with the suggested ideas.
Home Is Where the Hive Is looks attractive and has a neatly punning title. However, I do have some minor quibbles. One is the blurring of information book and story book conventions. The story here seems to be told for the purpose of teaching, but if that is the case, some details are misleading. For example, the Queen bee is sitting down with a crown on her head; this will foster misconceptions. Also, the roof garden is built with incredible speed; this could create unrealistic expectations. Finally, the urgent importance of protecting bees is not really explained; this seems to be an opportunity missed when they are so crucial to the ecosystem.
Read and discussed with an adult, this book will certainly help a child understand bees better. It may inspire a passion for the environment. It may make readers aware that everyone, including children, can help protect and rejuvenate habitats. There is also a hint in the dedication at the start that Beatrice’s bold adventure represents the many people forced to leave their homes and build another. In the current circumstances, the book could be a gentle stimulus to discuss the resilience and determination of refugees. These are good reasons why this book could merit a place on the KS1 shelf.
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