The Turtle Dove's Journey is a picture book, illustrated with quietly stunning art by Marlo Garnsworthy. We see the travels of a single, lone bird as he embarks from Suffolk, England in the fall and flies due south arriving at Mali a month later with stops along the way.
"When migrating, the turtle dove flies at night because it is safer. If he traveled
during the day, predators like falcons and hawks could easily see him. But at night time these predators are asleep."
Thus, the reader is invested in the fate of a single bird, as opposed to a traditional dispassionate description of the migration of many. It is this point of view that gives the story its power. A map of the flight path serves as an index of double-page illustrations depicting and acclaiming the turtle dove's rest stops.
The publisher, Web of Life Children's Books, is dedicated to stories of the fragile ecological dependencies of life on earth. They also published Dorothy Patent's At Home with the Beaver, which I also reviewed.
There have been five extinctions of life over the past 3.5 million years. We are now in the sixth. Survival of the web of life is under constant attack. A Turtle Dove's Journey brings Madeleine Dunphy's focus on a lovely, seed eating bird, who routinely travels great distances for seasonal comforts in home territories 4,000 miles apart.
And now for the bees. Honeybee:The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera is a picture book written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Eric Rohman, created especially for people that don't think of insects as warm, fuzzy, strong, loving and essential workers. (Yes, I'm channeling Andrew Cuomo.) The essential worker part, in the back matter of this biography of a worker bee Apis, was revealed in 2006 when there was a collapse of honeybee colonies, both wild and domestic all over the world-- a pandemic for bees! It impacted "one out of every three mouthfuls of food in the American diet [that] is, in some way, a product of honeybee pollination--from fruits to nuts to vegetables."
A honeybee colony is an intricate cooperative society that is chronicled in the life of a single female worker bee whose job changes every couple of days. Candace Fleming's lyrical prose leading up to a job that involves the act of flying (which we anthropomorphically think of as worthy of aspiration) doesn't happen immediately. The intense, extremely active, slightly-longer-than-a month lifetime of Apis begins with a struggle to get through the wax cap of the cell in which she developed. "Hmmmmm!" hums Fleming's words. "Now what?" the reader wonders.
Flying is delayed for days as Apis cleans up after her "birth," starts gaining strength by eating a lot of stored pollen, taking care of developing bees in the hive's nursery, tending the queen bee, building the comb for the reception of honey, processing incoming nectar from other bees until she is 18 days old and ready to start flying to collect nectar and spread pollen herself. Her first flight is rightfully celebrated with a double page spread featuring Apis, a lone bee over a field of wild flowers.
Her nectar collection and pollen spreading career lasts about two weeks. During this time:
"She has flown back and forth between nest and blossoms, five hundred miles in all.
"She has visited thirty thousand flowers.
She has collected enough nectar to make one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey."
In the natural order of things, she dies but is replaced by a new worker bee struggling our of her wax cell.
Both Fleming and Rohman are to be commended on this distillation of enormous amounts of meticulous research into lyrical prose and vivid, detailed art that pays homage to an insect whose colonies contribute mightily and essentially to the web of life.