Can a picture book without words still tell a story? Absolutely it can! Bee & Me tells a heart-warming and positive tale of an unusual friendship, with an environmental message for us all. The joy of stories related only in pictures is the freedom it opens up for each reader to fill in the details, both large and small, from the starting point that the illustrations provide. As no two readers are alike, the book then becomes unique to each person who discovers it; we each bring our own voice to the story. Giving the reader freedom to add their own depth and experience offers a wonderful opportunity for ‘big readers’ (parents, grandparents etc) to introduce ‘little readers’ to talking about a story and asking questions about what they see. Without text there is plenty of scope for their imaginations to fill in what is happening in each scene.
A young girl living in a high-rise apartment in the city runs scared from her room when a bee flies through her open window. Returning with the swatter, she pauses and opts for a more humane catch-and-release method of getting rid of the bee, which in turn leads to her helping the bee instead. Over the next few months, a friendship between bee and girl develops, as does a plan to bring nature back to the concrete ridden city.
Alison’s beautifully illustrated scenes are full of detail and expression, both in the foreground with her delightful main characters and in the busy street life going on in the background. The details are many and there are lots of things to look for each time you go over this charming story.
With our increasingly rushed and modern lives, I love the environmental message here – we all need to help our friends the bees, and re-connect to nature at the same time. To encourage this, not only is the bee in question very cute, but included at the back of the book is a helpful list of bee-friendly plants and herbs you can plant in your garden. Beautifully crafted and produced with hard covers and gorgeous end-papers, this will make a lovely gift for young and old, and will especially appeal to those keen to nurture an interest in our environment.
Reviewed by Vanessa Hatley-Owen
Bee & Me
by Alison Jay
Published by Old Barn Books