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Readers Reference: The Thing About Bees

By August 16, 2019May 13th, 2021The Kerlan Blog

The Thing About Bees: a love letter by Shabazz Larkin

Every once in a great while, when I am opening the mail, a book, an F&G (advance unbound copy of picture book “Folded and Gathered sheets”) is so stunning, so wonderful, so great, I finding myself gasping for breath. I am dying to run around the neighborhood and read it aloud to kids.

If you are in my office, in my path, waiting for your take-out order at India Palace, or having dinner with me, I have read this book aloud to you. Do I care that you are a big shot professor who may or may not have an interest in picture books, bees or curriculum? Nope. Buy this book. Buy many copies and give to teachers, librarians, and children. A classic in the making.

Where to start?

The art. Go get the book. The reproduction of a screenshot of a picture on a website does not do it justice. First notice the composition and depth perception…the stylized bee hovers in front of the glossy spot varnished title lettering trailing golden pollen.

Hovering bee from the cover

The child also in the same plane glances up apprehensively.

close up of child


But wait. The title is The Thing About Bees: a love letter.

A love letter?

Is this an informational book?

It is a hybrid. Shabazz Larkin, who you might know them from

Will Allen and the Growing Table by Jacqueline Briggs Martin (Readers to Eaters Press)


Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Tale

Begins with a double page spread explaining in matter-of-fact AND lyrical language how bees are part of the pollination process.

“When a bee and a flower love each other very much, a fruit is born”

This is actually the preface

The story begins with the poem, “Here’s the thing about bees.

For the book trailer go here


Larkin explains in the afterword, he wrote this book to conquer his fear of bees. It is a love letter to bees and the work that they do in creating the food that we eat. It is a love letter to joy, family, storytelling, science, and art.

The animated illustrations begin with a  grown-up explaining that

“Without Bees…

there’s be no more picnics with watermelon.

There’d be no more smoothies with mango.

There’d be no more strawberries for shortcakes.

And no more avocados for tacos.”

And also bees are as essential as the children who are addressed as “you.”

Warm and fuzzy

like the bumble bees who Shabazz Larkin notes ” are the kindest of bees” from his research and in the last spread titled,

Everything you need to know about how NOT to get stung: A Guide to Bees (and wasps) From Kind to Kinda Mean.

Informational spread on kinds of bees

Why I am so excited about this book

I do a lot of mentoring writers. One way is to think about fact based STEM writing responses to read aloud like The Thing About Bees. I already do a bee read aloud with Honey Bee Man by Lela Nargi and Kirsten Brooker.

Nargi, Lela, and Kyrsten Brooker. 2011. The Honeybee Man. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books.

I gather mentor texts.


Books about bees

Buchmann, Stephen L. 2010. Honey Bees: Letters from the Hive. New York:

Delacorte Press.

Dyck, Sara van. 2005. Bumblebees. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications Company.

Florian, Douglas. 2012. Unbeelievables: Honeybee Poems and Paintings. New York: Beach

Lane Books.

Frisch, Aaron. 2015. Bees, Seedlings. Mankato, MN: Creative Education and Creative


Gibbons, Gail. 1997. The Honey Makers. New York: Morrow Junior Books.

Glaser, Linda, and Gay W. Holland. 2003. Brilliant Bees. Brookfield, CT: The Millbrook

Press, Inc.

Hall, Kirsten, and Isabelle Arsenault. 2018. The Honeybee. New York: Atheneum Books

for Young Readers.

Heinrichs, Ann. 2002. Bees, Nature’s Friends. Minneapolis, MN: Compass Point Books.

James, Joyce. 2008. Bees, Nature’s Children. Danbury, CT: Grolier; Scholastic

Markle, Sandra. 2014. The Case of the Vanishing Honey Bees: A Scientific Mystery.

Minneapolis, MN: Millbrook Press.

Markovics, Joyce L., and Brian V. Brown. 2010. The Honey Bee’s Hive: A Thriving City,

Spectacular Animal Towns. New York, NY: Bearport Pub.

Prischmann, Deirdre A. 2006. Bees, Bridgestone Books World of Insects. Mankato, MN:

Capstone Press.

Riggs, Kate. 2013. Bee. Mankato, MN: Creative Education.

Rockwell, Anne F., and S. D. Schindler. 2005. Honey in a Hive. New York, NY:


Silverman, Buffy. 2012. Can You Tell a Bee from a Wasp? Minneapolis, MN: Lerner.

Starosta, Paul. 2005. The Bee: Friend of the Flowers, Animal Close-Ups. Watertown, MA:


Stewart, Melissa. 2009. How Do Bees Make Honey? Tell Me Why, Tell Me How. New

York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark.

Wimmer, Teresa. 2007. Bees, My First Look at Insects. Mankato, MN: Creative


Winchester, Elizabeth. 2005. Bees! New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

Winters, Kari-Lynn. 2013. Buzz About Bees. Ontaria, Canada: Fitzhenry & Whiteside.

Woodward, John. 2001. Honeybees, Animal Families. Danbury, CT: Grolier Educational.

Fact Checking Program


Step 1: Gather books that include facts about bees. They can be poetry

books, picture books, and field guides to insects and bees.

Step 2: Select a picture book title to read aloud. I’ve used The Honeybee Man, by Lela Nargi, as well as DougFlorian’s UnBEElievables: Honeybee Poems and Paintings.

Step 3: As preparation to the program, read the title and identify facts that may come up in discussion. If the writers don’t offer any facts or are shy, you might prompt with “How do

we know there’s a queen bee?” Illustrated informational picture books

like About Bees, by Cathryn Sill, can also be prompts for a fact-checking


The Workshop

Step 1: Read the book aloud.

Step 2: Solicit facts gleaned from the text, and write them out on

chart paper. You may have to start with an observation of your own

to model. Then lead a five-minute discussion around the question

“How do we know something is true?”

Step 3: Define fact-checking. The goal is to prove something is true

by looking in other sources for confirmation. If the group contains

children of ages nine and up, you might include information about

the authority of the writer. And you can point out parts of a field

guide, including the index and table of contents.

Step 4: Model how to find a fact in an informational book.

Step 5: Divide children into groups of three or four and hand out

bee books and field guides. If you have access to computers or

technology, provide database links for fact-finding.

Step 6: Give the group 15–20 minutes to find the facts, assigning

one fact per group or letting the writers choose. They can write the

facts on sticky notes or bookmark the page where the fact was


Step 7: Regroup, and solicit the confirmed facts. Model the

importance of noting the book page information for each fact .

Step 8: Ask “How did the research process go? What it easy or

hard? Were there any surprises?” A technique for this discussion

can include KWL: What did I know? What did I want to know? What

did I learn?

Step 9: Give a five-minute warning for cleanup. Remind writers

when the Writing Boxes are available to use in the library. Clean up

the area, put away supplies, and put the books back onto the

shelving cart.

Step 10: Take a few minutes to allow children to select

informational books of interest or share their findings.


The Thing About Bees

With its playful language, animated art, fact-filled pages is an inspiring mentor text.

I imagine that this title is the perfect prompt for research and creative assessment of comprehension and knowlege.

First read aloud The Thing About Bees  then

    1. Pick a topic- something that I or someone might be frightened of like thunderstorms or spiders.
    2. Do research on the topic.
    3. Finish this sentence, The thing about spiders is..
    4. Explain the facts, draw pictures, maybe even create a picture book.


What is research?

Careful study of a subject in order to uncover facts.

 For More Writing Prompts

And how to facilitate writing in libraries or home

Writing Boxes: The Reading/Writing Connection in Libraries

by Lisa Von Drasek

Free download at


Added on Sunday

So now I am nuts about bees. Especially the friendly ones. From this morning’s dog walk.

friendly bumble bee with a leg full of pollen




















Photo of Shabazz Larkin, author illustrator from his facebook page


What Can I tell you about Shabazz Larkin

From his website

Shabazz Larkin is an artist and activist interested in creating images of black culture and contemporary spirituality. Shabazz is a multi-disciplinary artist, painting vibrant portraiture on canvas, typographic printing techniques and film. His practice of vandalizing photographs, overwhelming use of color and bold typography, at times feel like visual concepts better suited for the editorial section of Rolling Stone.  He is also a children’s book author, currently illustrating his third book, a guide for navigating the fear of bees.
Follow us on Instagram: @shabazzlarkin  |  Email:

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