The best books about the magic of bees (for ages 10-14)

Mobi Warren Author Of The Bee Maker
By Mobi Warren

Who am I?

I have long been fascinated by bees. I am a retired Middle School teacher (I taught mathematics, science, and creative writing in an inner-city school district) and am a volunteer community scientist with a special interest in pollinators. I love nothing more than being outdoors, meandering through empty lots, local parks, and my own backyard observing bees of all species. As a storyteller, I am fascinated by how honeybees weave through different cultures’ myths and how they are seen as a source of mystical and transformative power. Honeybees ignite my imagination and bring together my love of science and my concern for threats to our shared environment.

I wrote...

The Bee Maker

By Mobi Warren,

Book cover of The Bee Maker

What is my book about?

In 2036, honeybees are nearly extinct. Thirteen-year-old Melissa has never tasted a strawberry because the world's crops are disappearing. Her absence seizures earn her the hated nickname statue girl at school and her mother changes custody arrangements, leaving her with a reluctant father. To cope, Melissa folds origami. She decides to fold a thousand honeybees as a prayer for bees and a way to connect with her father, a honeybee scientist.

Melissa’s seizures and origami magically combine to open a portal to ancient Crete where she encounters a disabled boy who communicates with honeybees. He is blamed for a deadly fever and condemned to die. His sister can ransom his life but only if she wins an impossible race. Can Melissa save both the bees and the boy?

The books I picked & why

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Hour of the Bees

By Lindsay Eagar,

Book cover of Hour of the Bees

Why this book?

Honeybees hold a mysterious power in this beautifully written novel about a girl’s struggle to connect with both her cultural roots and her grandfather with dementia during a summer in the New Mexico desert. As a former Middle School teacher, I loved how perfectly Eagar captured Carolina’s struggles with family and friends. I was enchanted by Grandpa’s Serge’s tale about a tree once kept alive by bees, and couldn’t take my eyes off the page as story strands merged in a powerful and suspense-filled climax. The image of bees each bringing a mouthful of water to replenish a drought-erased lake is one of my all-time favorite images in literature. 

Honeybee: Poems & Short Prose

By Naomi Shihab Nye,

Book cover of Honeybee: Poems & Short Prose

Why this book?

In this collection of poems and short prose pieces, Young People’s Poet Laureate (2019-21) Naomi Shihab Nye, takes inspiration from honeybees to encourage us to refresh our spirits by honing our attention and treating others with kindness. While many of the poems concern the nature and wonder of bees and the threats they face, other pieces address subjects as diverse as crickets, egrets, kiwi cake. The poet does not shy away from the heftier subjects of war and injustice because she knows young people are hungry to discuss those things, too. This is a perfect collection to draw from to inspire students in a writing class. I know because I have used her poems in that way. Some of my favorite poems are in this collection.

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera

By Candace Fleming, Eric Rohmann (illustrator),

Book cover of Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera

Why this book?

Who says picture books are only for young children?  I taught all levels, K-12, and often used picture books to grab and hold the attention of my Middle and High School students. If this award-winning book had been published when I was still teaching, I would have read it to every math and science class I taught. This is a visually stunning book with text that is both poetic and informative. The factual behaviors and life cycle of an individual honeybee are filled with as much wonder as more imaginative tales. I kid you not, I cried on the last pages of this book, I was so moved by the honeybee’s life journey. 

Zinnia and the Bees

By Danielle Davis, Laura K. Horton (illustrator),

Book cover of Zinnia and the Bees

Why this book?

This is a delightfully wacky book with endearing characters. Zinnia is having a bad hair day, literally. A hive of bees takes up residence in the wild and curly mane of her hair to add to her troubles—a missing brother and a mother who doesn’t seem to care. I fell in love with this book on the first page when I learned that Zinnia was about to yarn bomb a statue of her school mascot. (I’m a knitter and have fancied taking up yarn bombing myself.) Quickly-paced chapters alternate between Zinnia as narrator and the bees discussing their own perilous situation. Told with both humor and empathy, this is a book where you can’t turn the pages fast enough in order to find out how things resolve.

Bees: A Honeyed History

By Piotr Socha,

Book cover of Bees: A Honeyed History

Why this book?

In my experience, Middle School youth can’t get enough of richly illustrated books that also serve as an encyclopedic compendium of fascinating facts. Want to know about bee anatomy? Hive-building? How bees communicate? Bees In mythology? Robotic bees? Beekeeping throughout history and across cultures? Current threats to bees? How to treat a bee sting? Look no further. But I warn you, it may be hard to pry this book from a young person’s hands once they start reading it. I had a hard time putting it down myself and I learned a lot of new facts. Bonus: this book’s large format lends itself to being held and pored over by two people at a time—cooperative learning at its best. 

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