cover image The Bee Tree

The Bee Tree

Patricia Polacco. Philomel Books, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-399-21965-8

The newest gem from Polacco's treasure chest of family stories extolls the virtues of reading--and of taking a study break. Young Mary Ellen would rather be ``outdoors running and playing'' than indoors with a book. Sympathetic to her feelings, her grandfather suggests that they find a bee tree. The Michigan woods literally buzz with activity as Mary Ellen and Grampa chase a pollen-laden bee to its far-off hive, picking up curious neighbors and passers-by along the way. Before long the original pair becomes a ``thundering stampede of goats, buggies, people and bikes'' in search of honey. Polacco's rollicking text provides a bubbly, adventurous tone for her cumulative romp. Boisterous color brings to life the characters' old-fashioned garb and the unspoiled lushness of the rural 19th-century setting. Fine pencil detail highlights stray pieces of hair blown back by the breeze, and the joy and determination on the faces of the honey hunters. Like Mary Ellen, readers will emerge refreshed from this respite, ready to seek out new adventures. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)