Margrete Lamond and Anthony Bertini (text) and Christopher Nielsen (illustrator), Just One Bee, Dirt Lane Press, May 2021, 32 pp., RRP $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9780648023890
One-bee lives in a desert landscape: An eerie, post apocalyptic world painted in browns, dirty whites and shadowy grey-blues.
In the wind, in the dust,
in the burning sun, One-bee wonders,
‘When, how, where and what can I do,
just me, one bee?’
Most of us have felt like One-bee from time to time. The rest of the book tells the story of what One-bee achieves by keeping her eyes and heart open, by dreaming, and by being ready when an opportunity presents itself. One-bee finds a flower – a marvel, but what use without another flower? She dreams of a world of flowers. Then she finds another bee. Other-bee is… a skinny bee, a shabby bee, a stay-away-from-me bee.
Other-bee also has a flower and a queen, kept in a cage, just for Other-bee. One-bee sees the possibilities. In the face of Other-bee’s pessimism and hostility, she goes back alone to find the flower and collect some pollen. It is a hard journey, but she succeeds. Other-bee needs to see each step before believing: pollen, fruit, seeds, flowers! A double spread at the end of the book explains the importance of bees to life on planet Earth – presented on a relieving blue-sky background.
The colour palette and illustrations give a spooky sense of the hot, dry, and almost empty landscape of the book. The flowers and One-bee herself bring some colour: pinks and oranges; tiger stripes. Other-bee is pictured as large and dark grey. But by the final page we see the three bees together, and One-bee is the largest and the leader.
Just One Bee has also been translated into the Wiradyuri language by Elaine Lomas and Candace Cord, edited by Letetia Harris. This version is hard to find but is listed by Collins Books Orange – Wiradyuri country in central western New South Wales.
Reviewed by Marita Thomson