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THE BEE TREE by Stephen Buchmann


by Stephen Buchmann & Diana Cohn & illustrated by Paul Mirocha

Pub Date: May 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-938317-98-2
Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press

In Malaysia, the yearly wild-honey hunts take place on moonless nights when the bees can’t see the men who climb the tualang, the tall bee trees. The hunters take special care not to upset the ecosystem that supports the giant honey bees, since the pollinating keystone species affects many of the plants and animals of the region. The authors and illustrator watched as a traditional hunter Pak Teh and his grandson, Nizam, ascended the tall ladders, lit the flames that scare the bees away for a few hours and harvested the honey from the heavy combs attached to the tree limbs. They turned their unique experience into a fictional picture book with a coming-of-age theme filled with wondrous double-spread paintings, depicting daily life today in a Malaysian village (the boy wears a T-shirt with an “All Stars” slogan; the grandfather wears traditional clothing), the rich rainforest, the legends of the honey bees and the stages of the honey hunt. The story is replete with authentic details, but the fascinating factual backmatter (written in a more adult tone and printed in a smaller typeface) and inclusion of small paintings from the artist’s sketchbook and photographs should have been presented in a more accessible format. (Picture book. 7-11)