This beautiful book, which celebrates nature and in particular the role of bees, was inspired by a real event. One day Alison Jay found an exhausted bee in her studio and was able to revive it with some sugared water.
The young girl in this story experiences the same thing, but she goes on to become friends with her bee, playing with it and sharing adventures as it grows big enough for her to fly upon its back.
Together the bee and the little girl leave the city and fly out over the wild meadows of the countryside to collect a bag full of seeds. On the way home they scatter the seeds over the city and later plant some more in the girl’s window box.
Their activities are noticed by the little boy who lives in the flat above, and soon the two children have become friends. A few seasons on and the meadow seeds have grown – decking the barren concrete city in flowers and resplendent greenery.
Jay creates her pictures in alkyd oil paints and they are very beautiful, with delicate and detailed portrayals of both cityscape and countryside. It’s worth looking closely at each image as there’s always much of interest to spot. For instance if you look carefully at the exteriors of the shop buildings you can guess what they might sell. (This is reminiscent of Mitsumasa Anno’s work in his ‘Journey’ series.) Or you could discuss all the different things that fly in the air, from airplanes and helicopters to butterflies and Canada geese. Or you could just observe the weather and the changing seasons in the pictures.
Most of all, though, Jay gives a sense of a lively city, packed with people busy doing their own thing. There’s a range of minor characters with different occupations, such as a writer, painter, decorator, chef, juggler, musician, dancer and florist, and many of these have their own stories that can be followed from page to page. This multiplicity of human stories is one of many reasons this joyful book is so appealing.
See also Alison Jay’s Welcome to the Zoo, discussed on this site.