Not long ago, I visited a 3rd grade classroom via Zoom to share Eric’s and my latest book, Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera. The story follows the thirty-five day life of a single honeybee – Apis – from the moment she emerges into the hive to the morning she drops wearily to the ground. To move the narrative forward and give it tension, I used the refrain, “Will she fly?” The answer for most of the book is “no.” Apis is hive-bound. She cannot go outside. She must stay in the nest, cleaning and building without ever feeling the summer breeze on her face until…
one glorious day,
when we can no longer bear for her to remain inside,
not one moment longer,
she creeps to the opening,
looks out and…
Into open space,
and blossom-sweet breeze.
“Just like us,” piped up a third grade boy. “One day we’ll all come out of our hives, too. And we’ll fly.”
The rest of the class cheered.
For their classmate?
For a future out of their grasps for now?
Locked in at home, away from his classmates, remote and struggling to make sense of the new normal, this eight-year old had found something surprising in Honeybee. He found hope. Art and words had reconnected him with a world where the next good thing is possible.
Eric and I set out to tell the story of a single bee. We hoped readers would fall in love with Apis and by extension all honeybees. But kids are magical creatures. Through some kind of alchemy, they turn our stories into their own. They intertwine their experiences. They discover the personally meaningful, relevant and useful. In the vast inner space of their thoughts and imaginations, our work is remade into something new, something more, and something unexpected.
Will we fly?
I have that third grader’s word on it: We will.