A Magic Fairy transforms a bear into a snake as punishment for stealing honey in this children’s tale.
Bertha, a brown bear, is fattening up for the approaching winter. When she catches the scent of “sweet, delicious, irresistible, fabulissimo” honey, Bertha follows her nose. She watches a worker bee’s waggle dance that tells cohorts where the nectar is: “You wiggle to the left / Then you waggle to the right / You do the hoobie doobie / with all your might.” Though pixies and fairies try to annoy Bertha, she ignores them, intent on scooping up as much honey as she can eat. But she can’t ignore the bees when they start stinging her nose. Bertha yells so loud she catches the attention of the Magic Fairy, who decides to repair the hive and pay Bertha back for devouring the bees’ carefully gathered honey. All the little creatures celebrate when the bear is turned into a tiny green (and “very, very cross”) snake. Meanwhile, Bertha’s mate, Horace, tries to find her and cries his heart out when he can’t. Taking pity, Fairy Godmother waves her wand and restores Bertha to bearness. Even the bees bring them bowls of honey in celebration, and the Fairy Godmother offers “a love blessing to the most loving couple in the woods.” Holley (Tangled Tales 2, 2017, etc.) intriguingly combines the pretty delicacy of fairies with the sometimes-brutal facts about beehives: for example, when a new queen bee hatches, the first thing she does is kill and eat her rival larvae: “I’ll stab her with my sharp, sharp stinger, / I’ll put her wings right through the wringer.” A poet, Holley writes appealing, well-scanning verse, although she occasionally misses the chance for a more surprising metaphor, as when the bees who sting Bertha are “AS MAD AS HORNETS,” or when woodland creatures’ eyes shine “like flashlights.” In addition, the tone can be uneven, from precious (“an iggly wiggly larva”) to straightforward (“Then nurse bees began to feed the larvae rich royal jelly”).
An appropriately sweet story of food and love.