A breezy look at urban beekeeping.
In Paris, France, young Lionel receives a disturbing call from his hapless aunt Celine, who lives in the country: her honeybees are dying, possibly from a lack of dietary variety. In the disjointed adventure that follows, Lionel, a white boy, shares his worries with his neighbor friends Alice and Samir. While lunching on his apartment’s flower-filled balcony, Lionel realizes the honeybees might fare better in the city, where a variety of plants in window boxes and on balconies could add diversity to their diet. In a whirlwind, Lionel is off to collect signatures from his neighbors to approve the plan, a quickly jumped hurdle. The honeybees are installed on the roof and seem to thrive. In its haste to tell Lionel’s story, the book stumbles multiple times. Lionel suggests that honeybees do not fly far, but bees will fly up to 5 miles for nectar; unrealistically, honey is extracted just a few days after the sick bees arrive. The backmatter offers an odd mixture of highly specific beekeeping information and superficial facts, presenting both the laying rates of bees and a two-sentence overview of colony collapse disorder, for instance. The illustrations do not provide additional support. Celine is depicted by her hive in beekeeping hat and veil, while Lionel stands by her side bareheaded. All of the characters are depicted with the same pale-peach skin tone, from blonde Alice to dark-haired Samir.
A profoundly disappointing posthumous outing from a beloved author. (Picture book. 5-8)