Swarm of Bees

Swarm of Bees
Lemony Snicket and Rilla Alexander
Andersen Press

This is the second ‘Swarm of Bees’ to arrive at my house in the last couple of weeks. A real swarm dropped down our chimney the other day and after an initial invasion of our bedroom, the bees are now safely at home nesting in the chimney flue.

In the story, a boy throws a tomato at a nest of bees. Why, one wonders. He certainly looks pretty angry as he walks along pulling that cart. But to take his anger out on the bees is surely not acceptable behaviour. His action causes the nest to swing, and disturbed, the bees come swarming out: do they do so to protect their queen perhaps?

Through the town fly the bees with the narrator wondering about possible targets for their stings. A sailor? No he’s spent nine months at sea and is rushing home to give his mother a hug. Maybe a mother, a bricklayer,

chefs, a cat or residents of a flat: using repetition the narrator considers each potential target and provides reasons why not.

What about the boy? We then see that he in fact is pelting each of the potential targets with tomatoes; they’re all feeling indignant and chase the boy across a tomato-splattered town layout

in a sequence of wonderfully buzzy spreads.

Eventually the beekeeper calms the swarm and catches them in his bee sack.

The boy meanwhile, is pacified by an embrace from a parent who doesn’t chastise,

but the narrator echoes his thoughts with ‘It can feel good to be angry. / it can feel better to stop.’

Clever use of metaphor for the feelings of the characters, combined with the exuberant illustrations provoke ideas about anger management and the other emotions the characters exhibit in Rilla Alexander’s bold, mixed media scenes, providing a nice balance of humour and emotional charge.

The entire book is thoughtfully designed from cover to cover with the story starting and concluding on the endpapers.

An interesting, thought provoking book to share as a prelude to a circle time discussion with young listeners.

Crabbit the Parrot / Bluster and Snide

Crabbit the Parrot
Bluster and Snide

Steve Blakesley and Natalie Griffiths
LDA

Ex primary teacher, Steve Blakesley has penned two rhyming lessons showing undesirable and then desirable behaviour animal style.

Crabbit the Parrot is a self-centred bird, beautiful to look at but not to listen to. It’s always a case of ‘me’, me first’, mine’ or other self-serving words and he just can’t cope when he doesn’t get his way immediately.

He’s the last to be sold from Mrs Jollies Pet Shop but when eventually a family chooses him and he gets a new home, Crabbit  is bad tempered and demanding

and makes a reckless break for freedom.

No amount of coaxing will bring him down from his branch in the tree but then an old raven CK happens along with a warning about a marauding moggie (ignored by Crabbit) and some wise words about the need for the parrot to alter his behaviour.

This brings about a positive change in Crabbit who heeds the lesson and returns inside, a reformed character.

Bluster and Snide are a pair of bantam cockerels that bully the other farmyard birds especially the smaller, weaker ones

until one day they issue a challenge to CK (Carrion King), calling him cowardly and bragging about their gang.

Their over confidence leads to Snide daring his brother to do something reckless, the outcome of which is a badly injured, friendless and increasingly hungry Bluster.

Time to change his ways perhaps? CK certainly thinks so, advocating ‘You need to be a friend.’ But, in the face of the farmyard fox, is it too late? …

Lively ‘Story Therapy’ tales such as these two with Natalie Griffiths’ expressive illustrations, can open up individual or class discussions on their inherent themes of anger management and bullying and will prove a useful PSHE tool for primary schools.

Horrible Bear!

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Horrible Bear!
Ame Dyckman and Zachariah OHora
Andersen Press
From the team that delighted us with Wolfie the Bunny comes another winner that begins on the title page with a little girl’s snapped kite string and is followed by a straightforward accident when a large sleeping bear rolls over and snaps the kite that has strayed into his cave. Instantly the girl deems him “Horrible Bear

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and stomps off home repeating the condemnation all the way.

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Said Bear meanwhile, is thoroughly chagrined and plans a spot of retaliation for the intrusion and the insult – a ‘Horrible bear’ idea no less –

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and sets off to pay a visit to the insult-hurler.
Meanwhile back in her room, the little girl is giving further vent to her rage when another accident occurs and what happens thereafter is not the anticipated face-off but an apology, after which, ‘…all the horrible went right out of Bear’.
Let the reparations begin …

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No moralising but a wonderful conflict resolution delivered as only this duo could, with wonderful wit and tenderness. A whole gamut of emotions are brilliantly portrayed both through Ame Dyckman’s spare text and OHora’s bold, acrylic illustrations: the dynamic between words and pictures is superb and even the front endpaper in which the girl’s bright red curls fill the space, in itself speaks volumes and sets the scene for the whole tale.
A cracking picture book to share just for the sheer joy of it, although of course, there are emotional literacy lessons aplenty embedded herein.