The Secret Life of Bees

Authored by Moira Butterfield
Illustrated by Vivian Minekar
Published by Words and Pictures

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The Secret Life of Bees is a second collaboration from Moira Butterfield and Vivian Minkear and combines bee facts with stories to entertain and inform young readers. Buzzwing, the hard-working honey bee, is our narrator and guide. There is a large amount of information presented in this book in a concise and accessible way. Text is broken into bite-sized chunks and the illustrations add detail as well as being attractive. The All About Me spread is a good example of high-quality non-fiction. There is a very clearly labelled illustration of a bee’s body parts and the text is presented on honeycomb shapes.

Moira Butterfield makes excellent use of figurative to support the reader’s understanding of the different functions of each body part. Some are easier to understand than others, for example, comparing the pollen sac to a tiny bag will paint a clear picture for most readers. The comparison between the 6900 lenses that make up each compound eye and a mosaic may need further explanation but paints a vivid picture. A plethora of fascinating facts include gems such as bees having hairy eyeballs which help them fly on windy days! The information is comprehensive and ranges from bees around the world, bee enemies, bumblebee homes, what bees do in the winter and beekeepers. Information is interspersed with stories from around the world. My personal favourite is the tale from Thailand which explains how elephants got their trunks. The stories add variety and richness to the book as a whole. These folk tales are narrated clearly and concisely and are well suited to read aloud when you have a spare few minutes. 

Bees are often feared by children and this beautiful book will help them appreciate these essential creatures. The final spread of The Secret Life of Bees is dedicated to being a bee friend and hopefully children will feel inspired to put these ideas into practice and make a difference.

The Secret Life of Bees would make a great addition to class libraries. I think it is a perfect book to read aloud to a class as the format makes it ideal to dip into and share a short story or some bee facts. Once it has been shared, children could return independently to the book. I think they would enjoy exploring sections in more depth and also would appreciate the interactive spotting element. If you are teaching children about minibeasts, this book would be good to include.  A further appeal for teachers is the range of different text types included which will support children to read as a scientist. There are diagrams, explanations and instructions as well as narrative and poetry.