The Beehive by Megan Daley & Max Hamilton

The Beehive by Megan Daley and Max Hamilton

Megan Daley is well-known in the Australian kidlit community. She’s a multi-award winning Teacher Librarian, former national vice-president of the Children’s Book Council of Australia, a regular literary judge, curator of 2023 Brisbane Writers Festival Word Play program, a workshop presenter, the creator of the popular website Children’s Books Daily and co-creator of the Your Kid’s Next Read podcast with Allison Tait. Megan has written a couple of books before, but The Beehive, illustrated by award-winning illustrator Max Hamilton, is her debut picture book.

As well as being an illustrator, graphic designer and a ‘maker of children’s books’, Max says she enjoys noticing the little details in things, loves to get lost in the world of illustration and stories, and through her art aims to raise awareness of the importance of protecting our Australian fauna. Together, they have created the delightful picture book, The Beehive, which shines a spotlight on Australia’s wonderful native bees.

It’s finally hive day! Willow has been waiting all year for groundskeeper Tom to split the school’s native stingless beehive in two so she can take home her very own hive. Everything needs to be just right to help so that the bees forage and thrive in their new home.

The dual text results in a charming story alongside an abundance of fascinating facts about Australia’s native bees.

This gorgeous book is a hybrid fiction and non-fiction story, filled with facts about our native bees, as well as a story of joy and discovery in the natural world, as main character Willow learns about how native bees live, work and thrive. Megan has cleverly combined a fictional story with facts and each page is filled with crisp and colourful illustrations by Max, as the story of Willow and her journey to learning about native stingless bees unfolds, along with information about their lifecycle, behaviour and homes.

Groundskeeper Tom is in charge of the hives at school and has the important job of supervising the division of the hives for the school’s Nature Club. Willow loves the mornings where Tom sits with her and they watch the bees working in the hive, Tom answering any questions she has about the bees. The scents and sounds of the bees and their hives are beautifully described and illustrated. The colours are bright and spring-like and the Endpapers are divine. I particularly loved the illustrations of the nests with the golden colours and nautilis like shapes of the brood comb.

Each page of the fictional story has a corresponding page of facts about native stingless bees, including ways to identify them, where they like to live, how they pollinate plants and flowers and crops, what happens inside the hive, the different roles within a hive, the process of carefully dividing a hive, and the importance of protecting the queen. The facts are written in a different font, to separate these from Willow’s story. If the reader wanted to, they could read the story through on its own and go back to look at the facts. I had no issue reading straight through and liked learning about the facts alongside Willow’s story. It was almost as if Groundskeeper Tom was talking to me too.

There is a strong conservation message in the story and encouragement to grow bee-friendly gardens, avoid pesticides and provide habitat with bee hotels and old logs in our gardens. I have a great blog post about building bee hotels here.

At the end of the book there’s a very useful Glossary and information is identified through the story with certain words in italics, which then connects the reader to these, so they can find out more. This is a great addition to any school and home library with the reference materials for you to go back to. Megan says her best subjects at school were English and Agriculture and she still enjoys ‘reading, writing, small-scale farming, growing green things, chickens and bees.’ Her partner is a commercial beekeeper and her love of bees shines through in this lovely picture book. Likewise, Max’s passion for protecting Australia’s fauna is clear in her beautiful illustrations.


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