SIBERT CHALLENGE: Honeybee, The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera

EACH year, the Sibert Medal is awarded to the “most distinguished” U.S. children’s nonfiction book. I have challenged myself to read all 21 Sibert Medal winners and to share these award-winning nonfiction books with you.

Today, I am sharing the 2021 Sibert Medal Winner: Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Melifera, written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Eric Rohmann.

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Melifera by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann

  • Recommended for: life cycle unit, survival strategies unit, source for research project, read to self
  • Interest level: 2nd grade & up
  • Reading level: 3rd grade & up
    • lexile: 750
    • guided reading: N

HONEYBEE is a strikingly illustrated book, chock full of information about the honeybee life cycle. This Sibert Medal winner is the perfect book for teachers to incorporate into life cycle units. For the right kid — the kid who stares in fascination at closeup images of insects and devours scientific facts — Honeybee is also a fantastic read to self book.

Honeybee is narrative nonfiction: light on the “narrative,” heavy on the “nonfiction.” Author Candace Fleming spins just enough of a story to engage kids. She also includes more than enough thoroughly-researched facts to justify reading this book aloud during science class.

Honeybee begins with a brand-new honeybee, pushing and chewing it’s way out of a cell:

Fleming then describes each stage of this honeybee’s life cycle: cleaning, nursing, queen tending, comb building, food handling, guarding… We are held in suspense, wondering when it will be time for the honeybee to fly.

When the honeybee finally flies, readers are treated to a breathtaking two-page foldout spread of the honeybee flying over a field of wildflowers. I will save this featured image for you to enjoy in person. I will just note that this foldout spread has that wow factor that makes this book super fun to read aloud to a classroom full of kids.

It is clear to me why Honeybee caught the attention of the Sibert committee. Illustrator Eric Rohmann’s oil paintings make this book stand out from the crowd. While others have written solid life cycle books, no other life cycle book features Rohmann’s lush, detailed oil paintings. Fleming strikes a nice balance between informing and entertaining. Finally, the back matter in Honeybee is solid. Fleming and Rohmann cite their sources. I especially like the honeybee diagram — illustrated via woodcut — that introduces new vocabulary words to readers.

In addition to being Sibert-worthy, Honeybee is a versatile educational book. Second through fifth grade teachers will find numerous ways to incorporate Honeybee into their teaching.

Also by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann

Giant Squid by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann

In 2017, Fleming and Rohmann received a Sibert honor for this equally impressive book. I absolutely love the illustrations in Giant Squid (dramatic color scheme, unconventional compositions). The mere fact that giant squids exist is fascinating.

Chime into the discussion!

  • What do you think about Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Melifera by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann?
  • How might you share this book with kids?

Join the Sibert Challenge!

Next Up:

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard and Juana Martinez-Neal

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