As they did in Giant Squid (2016), Fleming and Rohmann give readers a deep dive into the biology of a creature so alien from humans it’s hard to imagine we all live on the same planet.
The long, free-verse poem begins to unfold in the frontmatter when the protagonist emerges from the wax cell that protected her during metamorphosis “into… / a teeming, trembling flurry. / Hummmmm!” Naming her subject Apis for her genus, Fleming describes in meticulous detail many of the myriad roles a worker honeybee plays in the colony, from cell preparation through nursing, queen tending, comb building, nectar receiving, honey curing, guarding, and scouting to, finally, foraging. She maintains narrative tension through artfully deployed delayed gratification, ending each topical spread by hinting that Apis’ “new job” might involve “flying?” only to reveal a different nest-bound activity for Apis with a page turn. Rohmann rises to the challenge of a story set mostly in dark, confined quarters and a limited palette of black, brown, and honey yellow with stunning views of Apis and her sisters, each tiny hair and segment lovingly delineated. Neither text nor illustrations anthropomorphize their subject; Apis never complains. But an astonishing double gatefold depicts her finally flying over a field of purple and yellow wildflowers into an endless blue sky, liberating bee, creators, and readers alike. Several pages of backmatter offer further information about honeybees, online resources, and child-appropriate books.
Like its subject, a wonder to behold. (Informational picture book. 5-10)