Vanessa Ryan-Rendall (text) and Brenna Quinlan (illustrator), Bee Detectives, CSIRO Publishing, April 2021, 32 pp., RRP $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781486313396
This is one of those wonderful information picture books for kids where the sharing adults will learn as much as the young readers. In this narrative, Olivia and her younger brother Hamish (plus his guinea pig Ignatius), are woken up by the noise of a chainsaw coming from the park across the road. Looking out the window, they can see a very large tree lying on the ground with a smoky haze coming from it.
Initially thinking it’s a fire, they and their Mum and Dad rush to the scene to find that the haze is actually a cloud of insects. These turn out to be native social bees and their hive is in the felled tree. Some professionals called The Bee Team arrive and dig out the comb from the tree and put it into a box. This will be the bees’ new home and the exciting thing is that once the bees have returned to the new hive after nightfall, it is relocated to Olivia and Hamish’s backyard where they can watch what happens. They have become The Bee Detectives.
The text then goes on to describe several species of Australian native bees, including solitary bees which do not live in colonies. The hive that was rescued from the park belongs to Australian native stingless bees, which are very small and do not produce quantities of honey. The small amount they do produce is called sugarbag.
The format is standard rectangular picture book with colourful cartoon-style illustrations. The endpapers show many magnifying glasses with different bees under the lenses and the book ends with more information about native bees, tips on how to attract them to your garden, a glossary and brief factual information about several species including silhouettes drawn to scale.
The subject matter is fascinating and there are teachers’ notes available from the publisher’s website.
Reviewed by Lynne Babbage