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The Bee Tree

Last updated Monday, April 8, 2013

Author: Patricia Polacco
Illustrator: Patricia Polacco
Date of Publication: 1993
ISBN: 039921965X
Grade Level: 2nd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Apr. 2013

Synopsis: From School Library Journal:
Polacco has created another charming picture book featuring a child learning from a grandparent in an idyllic pastoral setting. Mary Ellen complains that she is tired of reading. Her grandfather replies that ". . . this is just the right time to find a bee tree!" They chase bees through the Michigan countryside, are soon joined, a la "The Gingerbread Man," by a number of bystanders, and are finally led to the hive. At the end of the story, Grampa drops a bit of honey on a book's cover and tells Mary Ellen to compare its sweetness to that which is found inside: "Just like we ran after the bees to find their tree, so you must also chase these things adventure, knowledge, and wisdom through the pages of a book!" While the message may not be as emotionally resonant as the themes found in Thunder Cake (Philomel, 1990) or Babushka's Doll (S. & S., 1990), both the writing and artwork are fresh and inviting. There is a marvelous specificity to the names and places found within the story, and the pacing is appropriately reckless. The double-page spreads are done in Polacco's distinctive multimedium style and are beautifully composed. Her use of white space sets off the clear yet unusual colors. Well worth pursuing.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  What is a Bee Tree?
•  Have you caught insects before?

•  Pollen- a fine powdery substance produced by plants that contains reproductive cells
•  Beehive- an enclosed structure in which honeybees live and raise their young
•  Buggy- a small, light, one-horse carriage with two to four wheels
•  Commotion- a state of confused and noisy disturbance

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Have you ever eaten honey? What do you eat it with?
•  What kinds of fun things do you do with your grandparents?
•  Have you ever chased an insect, bee, or butterfly?

Craft ideas:
•  Cut out bubble wrap in the shape of a beehive. Coat the bubble wrap with orange and yellow markers, then press the bubble wrap beehive onto a blank piece of paper, leaving behind a beehive imprint. Draw bees swarming around the hive! You may also draw a beehive without using bubble wrap.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!