A Classic Story for a New Generation
“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” ─ Emilie Buchwald
As a librarian, I love to get kids excited about reading. I’m always on the lookout for new books that promote the love of reading, but I have some classics that are perfect stand-bys. The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco is one of them. I’ll be reading it to my second grade students today.
When young Mary Ellen gets tired of reading, Grampa takes her on a hunt for a bee tree through the Michigan countryside. Along the way, they meet a bevy of characters that join in the quest to find the bee tree and fresh honey. The characters have interesting names and distinct personalities that make for a great read aloud. There’s Mrs. Govlock and Baby Sylvester, Einar Tundevold, Olav Lundheigen and the Hermann sisters, Petra and Dorma. There’s “Klondike” Bertha Fitchworth, Feduciary Longdrop, goats, geese, and traveling musicians. It’s a mouthful of fun to read!
When the cast of characters finally reach the bee tree where the honey is hidden, Grampa has everyone build a smoke fire to quiet the bees in order to collect pieces of honeycomb. Afterwards, the crowd enjoys biscuits, honey, tea, and music. My favorite part of the story is when Grampa shows Mary Ellen not only how to savor the sweet honey after the chase, but also how to savor the sweetness found when reading books…“adventure, knowledge and wisdom.”
Polacco’s illustrations add to the merriment of the book, and the ending is a perfect jumping-off point to discuss the importance of reading and the magic that can be found in books.