Let’s continue our garden-related series of children’s books with Begin with a Bee by Liza Ketchum, Jacqueline Briggs Martin, and Phyllis Root, illustrated by Claudia McGehee.

The three authors follow a single rusty-patched bumble bee queen through her life, starting with the bee overwintering in a hole under the ground.

“What else waits all winter under the ground?”

Seeds and roots of plants! By explaining that plants are also important for the bee’s survival by supplying food, young reader’s learn how different living things depend on each other.

The text proceeds in a question-and-answer format. In the spring:

Where will she nest?

It turns out that as well as overwintering, bumble bee queens also nest in the ground. We learn about how the queen feeds her offspring and how they change and grow. One two-page spread shows all the stages the larvae and pupae go through to become bumble bee workers.

You might wonder what bumble bees have to do with gardening. Throughout the summer and into fall the bumble bees gather nectar and pollen from flowers. In the process, the bees pollinate many plants so they can produce the seeds that grow into next year’s plants. Although not mentioned in the text, bumble bees pollinate some plants better than honey bees, for example clover grown for seed. They are also used in greenhouses to pollinate tomatoes.

Before we know it, it is winter again and another bumble bee queen rests in the ground, waiting for spring.

The back matter rocks. The rusty-patched bumble bee page includes facts like that it was the first bee species to go on the endangered species list. The next page lists “Ten things we can all do to help.”

Claudia McGehee’s scratchboard illustrations are incredible. The shapes, textures, and the deep black lines add so much interest to every page. There’s so much to see and explore.

Begin with a Bee is a picture book that will appeal to nature lovers of all ages.  Investigate a copy today!

Related activities:

There are so many cool things to see and do related to this book, it is hard to know where to start.

1. Watch the video by Clay Bolt, A Ghost in the Making:  Searching for the Rusty-patched Bumble Bee.

2. Think about adding fall-blooming native plants to your garden to help bees.  Some general kinds are goldenrods, asters, and joe pye weed. The Xerces Society has more information.


3. Want to learn more about bumble bees? Visit the citizen science project Bumble Bee Watch.

4. Participate in Pollinator Week activities June 20-26, 2022. You can find fun activities on their Resources page at any time. See our activity suggestions for a previous Pollinator Week.

5. Interested in trying a scratchboard art project like the illustrations in the book? Although there a commercially-prepared products, you can also make your own. See how in this video.

Want to read more? See our growing list of children’s books about pollination at Science Books for Kids.

Reading age ‏ : ‎ 4 – 9 years
Publisher ‏ : ‎ Univ Of Minnesota Press (May 25, 2021)
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1517908043
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1517908041

Disclosure: This book is my personal copy. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.