Clan Apis

Yesterday, I wept more over a book than I have for years. I was reading it out loud, and could barely choke out the words between sobs. It was a disservice to the book-- my children were so busy staring at me with half-alarmed amusement that they had little attention left for the poignant words and pictures.

What was this tear jerker? A graphic novelized version of the life of a honey bee, by Jay Hosler (2000, 158pp, which might seems like a lot for a reading out loud book, but it goes very quickly). "They" say it's for kids 9-12, but my four year old and I both liked it lots, so there you are.

We first meet Nyuki, the bee heroine of the story, when she is a little larva (cute and sassy), and follow her through the kind of intimidating things that happen when you're a bee--metamorphosis, leaving the hive for the first time, learning that the more you fly, the faster your wings wear out, and finally, dying (whah).

A truly excellent book--good science, good story, good pictures, good messages (things like: compost is good. Even though someone (a dung beetle) seems really strange and does things you think are yucky you can still be friends. Females are smart and brave). It was good reading practice too-- although I can read just fine when I'm not sniffing, my seven year old still doesn't read to himself--and a book like this gives him a chance to be one character while I do everyone else.

If you want to learn more about the book and the bees, visit its great website. Among other things, the website has a summary of the science topics covered in each section of the book. And it is science that one can trust--Jay Hosler is, after all, a neurobiologist who studies olfactory processing in honey bees.

A minor touch that we greatly enjoyed was an introductory page of pictures of bees drawn by children of all ages and skills -- from sausages with wings to real "nature drawings." I found it inspiring, and imagine that kids would too (mine, as usual, refused to comment in a useful or meaningful fashion when I asked them).

In short, if you have a kid who likes both Calivn and Hobbs and non-fiction, fact filled books, Clan Apis would be prefect. Or if you have a kid who has never tried a graphic novel, and who isn't wild about science, this book would be perfect.

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