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The Honeybee Man

The Honeybee Man

5.0 1
by Lela Nargi, Kyrsten Brooker (Illustrator)

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"Eccentric and unusual with an appealing, gentle charm," raves Kirkus Reviews, in a starred review.

Every morning, Fred climbs three flights of stairs—up to his rooftop in Brooklyn, New York—and greets the members of his enormous family: "Good morning, my bees, my darlings!" His honeybee workers are busy—they tend the hive, feed


"Eccentric and unusual with an appealing, gentle charm," raves Kirkus Reviews, in a starred review.

Every morning, Fred climbs three flights of stairs—up to his rooftop in Brooklyn, New York—and greets the members of his enormous family: "Good morning, my bees, my darlings!" His honeybee workers are busy—they tend the hive, feed babies, and make wax rooms. They also forage in flowers abloom across Brooklyn... so that, one day, Fred can make his famous honey, something the entire neighborhood looks forward to tasting. Lela Nargi's beautifully written story—accompanied by Kyrsten Brooker's collage-style illustrations—offers an inside look at the life of an endearing beekeeper and the honey-making process.

A Junior Library Guild Selection, a Bank Street College of Education Best Book of the Year, a Cook Prize Honor Book, and a NSTA-CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In her children's book debut, Nargi presents a leisurely but diverting look at the life of a Brooklyn beekeeper. Readers join elderly Fred as he rises at dawn one July morning and heads to the roof to check his three bee houses. As summer progresses, Fred imagines the activity inside the hive, then carefully harvests jars of rich, sweet "Fred's Brooklyn Honey, Made by Tireless Brooklyn Bees" to share with his neighbors. Copious details are carefully woven into descriptions of Fred's day-to-day activities ("When the bees return to their hives, Fred notices that they are flying slooowly—heavy, now, with nectar"). In sunny, oil-and-collage compositions, Brooker (Math Attack!), inspired by her former Brooklyn neighborhood, captures the bustle of sidewalks and storefronts, as well as the serenity of Fred's rooftop and a green expanse of park. She also does a fine job demonstrating the steps of collecting honey—even the bees' "waggle dances." An endnote and the endpapers provide additional information about bees and beekeepers. Kids should find this easygoing blend of fiction and fact fascinating. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2011
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
We go to a Brooklyn rooftop in July with a man named Fred, to visit the three small "houses" where he keeps his families of bees. He greets the three queen bees who are busily laying eggs. He longs to fly with the workers who are out in his backyard and around town to drink and store the flower nectar. He knows how they return to the hive, "dancing" to show the other bees where the flowers are. Sister bees are storing the nectar and turning it into honey. At the end of August, after careful preparation, it is time for Fred to remove the honeycombs, thank the bees, and prepare the honey for sale in jars. He also shares it with his neighbors, describing all the flowers from which the honey may have come. Collage and oil paints convey scenes of Brooklyn and roofs, on one of which are Fred's hives. The illustrations are naturalistic but simplified; the many pictures of the bees are quite informative. More technical images of the honey-making process are detailed on the end pages in this slice of unusual activity in an urban environment. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Kirkus Reviews

Tell it to the bees. The ancient art of beekeeping is alive and well in Brooklyn, N.Y. Fred is dedicated to his bees and greets them each morning on his rooftop. He has named the queens Mab, Boadicea and Nefertiti, after legendary historic figures; the bees are his "sweeties" and his "darlings." He hums with them as they swarm and flies with them in his imagination as they search for the most fragrant flowers. When the time is right, he carefully gathers their honey, jars it, shares it with his neighbors and, of course, savors some of that luscious honey himself. Nargi's descriptive language is filled with smell and sound and sight, carrying readers right up to that rooftop with Fred, while seamlessly interweaving detailed information about beekeeping. An afterword of "amazing facts"explains more about apiarists, bees' life cycles and more, all in light, easy-to-understand syntax. Brooker's oil-and-collage illustrations, appropriately rendered in greens and browns, golds and ambers, enhance the text beautifully. They accurately depict Fred's and the bees' actions while creating a stylized, fanciful view of a homey Brooklyn neighborhood, complete with a view of the Brooklyn Bridge. Even the endpapers are integral to the work, presenting labeled diagrams of bees and beekeeping materials. Eccentric and unusual with an appealing, gentle charm.(Picture book. 5-10)

School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3—Although most people probably associate honeybees with fields of flowers in the countryside, Fred tends his hives on the rooftop of his home in Brooklyn. From there the intrepid worker bees fly out to gather nectar from backyard flowers and blossoming bushes. Fred follows them in his imagination, creating pictures that allow readers to view scenes inside the hives and learn about how the bees work together. At the end of summer Fred collects and processes the honeycomb to produce jars of amber honey that he shares with his neighbors. His affection for his bees is evident in the warm tones of Brooker's collage and oil illustrations as well as in the words of the sweet, lyrical text. Nargi incorporates basic facts about honeybees and beekeeping into her narrative and supplies two additional pages of information following Fred's story. Pair this with Laurie Krebs's story about beekeeping in the country in The Beeman (Barefoot, 2008) or Lori Mortensen's look at wild bees in In the Trees, Honey Bees! (Dawn, 2009) for other views about how and where bees produce honey. However, Nargi's book can definitely stand on its own for its unusual glimpse of beekeeping in an urban setting.—Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University, Mankato

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.60(w) x 10.50(h) x 0.30(d)
AD870L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

LELA NARGI is the author of numerous books about knitting and cooking. This is her first children's book.

KYRSTEN BROOKER's wonderful books for children include Someday When My Cat Can Talk by Caroline Lazo; Precious and the Boo Hag by Patricia C. McKissack, an ALA Notable Book, a School Library Journal Book of the Year, and a Charlotte Zolotow Honor; and Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street by Roni Schotter, a National Council of Teachers Notable Trade Book.

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Honeybee Man 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
AppalachianChic More than 1 year ago
Beautifully illustated book! My four year old son loves it.  We stumbled upon it after reading some of Nargi's knitting books. The bee keeping process is well written for a child and for an adult.  Love this, and hope they get together for another. My only negative thing is I wish the author provided a read along app for this.