Book Review – Big City Bees

How do city kids relate to the seasons and to where their food comes from? Their connection to nature can be just as rich and deep as any suburban child’s, especially with the help of community gardens. At this time of year when pumpkin patches are in full swing, Big City Bees is an engaging and seasonally relevant book for kids ages 3-7. Published in 2012, the story and illustrations reflect Vancouver’s urban and natural environments and local food culture.

In a story organized around the passing seasons, an intergenerational family tend their community garden plot and learn about bees. Sophie and Matthew plant pumpkin vines. Their grandfather teachers them about the interconnected lives of bees and pumpkins, and about the seasons. Will the bees visit during the brief, critical window when their pumpkin flowers are open?

While the book’s lessons transcend its setting, the author’s hometown is clearly recognizable in many scenes. A wild queen bee and her workers take to the air from Stanley Park to start a new hive. Rooftop beehives at the Fairmont Waterfront inspired the downtown hotel where Sophie, Matthew, and their grandfather watch in awe as a beekeeper catches the swarm. Renee Benoit’s beautiful illustrations show community gardens surrounded by green mountains, oceanside rail lines, and a busy port.

A short non-fiction section at the end of the book offers supplemental facts about bees and explains that bee populations are declining. Young readers may feel motivated to plant bee-friendly gardens, or simply excited to know more about where their Hallowe’en pumpkins come from. My two kids (ages 3 and 5) responded to my reading them Big City Bees by immediately demanding we read it again.

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For more information on Big City Bees, visit the Greystone Books website.

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Vanessa Kay is social planner and advocate focused on building complete and equitable communities through policy and partnerships. She enjoys hauling heavy things on bicycles and discovering the local connections that make cities tick.

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