Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Honeybee Man

Lela Nargi and Kyrsten Brooker

Fred lives in Brooklyn, right in the heart of the city. His apartment building is surrounded by linden trees and  other tall apartment buildings. When he climbs up to the roof of his building, Fred loves that he can see the entire city spread before him. But more than that, he loves the bustling miniature city that is entirely contained on his rooftop. 

Fred is a beekeeper. His bees are housed in sectioned beehives that smell like a cross between caramel and ripe peaches. Each of the three buildings is ruled by a queen bee, whom Fred has named Queen Mab, Queen Nefertiti, and Queen Boadicea. While the queens are busy laying eggs, the workers are building wax rooms, feeding babies and visiting flowers all over Brooklyn.

In the summer, Fred rises early and makes his way to the roof with his cup of tea. Settled in his rooftop lawn chair, he closes his eyes and imagine what his city would feel like as a bee, swooping through the city, wind rushing over his back. Fred greets the bees as they emerge from their hive. He knows they will gather nectar from all over Brooklyn and return to the hive to store it in beautifully constructed wax rooms. Later, Fred will carefully remove that honeycomb, harvest the honey, and share the sweet nectar with his neighbors.

Lela Nargi's inspiration for this story was two real life Brooklyn apiarists. I wonder how many of the little details are invented or based on the real apiarists? Fred has fancy names for his queen bees, but his cat's name is simply Cat. He wears slippers to the roof that match his royal blue cardigan, and a plaid newsboy cap covers his balding head. I like the details of his house: the patchwork quilt on his bed, the various wallpaper prints in each room, and the aqua webbed aluminum lawn chair that older people always seem to have.
Review copy provided by Random House.

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