soup of the day: the hive detectives by loree griffin burns!

Are you ready for some Sweeter-than-Sweet Buzz?

It’s official release day for The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe by Loree Griffin Burns (Houghton Mifflin, 2010)!! Yay!

Move over Michael Bond and A.A. Milne — the resident bears here at alphabet soup are hopelessly in love with Dr. Loree for writing this honey of a book! And who can blame them? After her amazing, Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Award winning debut, Tracking Trash (Houghton Mifflin, 2007), Loree has written another compelling book about a critical issue that affects us all — why are honey bees mysteriously disappearing?

 photo by wolfpix.

photo by rusto.

You may have heard about this phenomenon in the news — back in 2006, commercial beekeeper Dave Hackenberg discovered twenty million of his bees had vanished without a trace.

This was not an isolated incident due to mismanagement; other beekeepers in the country (and around the world) reported similar losses without any logical explanation.

 photo by ~ cloudy ~

Can you imagine a world without honey bees? It would mean no honey for consumption or beeswax for candles and creams, but well beyond that — barely any fruits, vegetables or nuts! Because honey bees are the most efficient pollinators of many plant crops, our food supply depends on them. In The Hive Detectives, Loree profiles four of the scientists who are investigating the possible causes of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a potential ecological and agricultural disaster. Could it be viruses, mites, pesticides, or malnutrition? 

Through Loree’s clear, engaging prose and Ellen Harasimowicz’s beautiful, fascinating photographs, we see how live bees are collected and tested, how results are recorded and interpreted. Chapters featuring hobbyist beekeeper Mary Duane anchor the book, giving us a first-hand look at the care and maintenance of hives and the collection of honey, as well as providing answers to common questions: What kinds of tools are used? How is a modern hive constructed? What is stored in the cells besides honey? What would draw someone to beekeeping and what are its unique pleasures and rewards?

Supplementary information (parts of a hive, functions of the three types of adult honey bees, the anatomy of bees, little bios of the scientists) presented on mock notebook pages, break up the narrative and add a nice personal touch. An Appendix Bee featuring cool random facts, a Glossary, Materials to Study, and References round out this attractively designed, well researched, highly accessible volume that’s a joy to read.

I learned so much, never knowing, for example, that commercial beekeepers make more money from renting their hives to fruit and vegetable farmers around the country than from selling honey — or that some crops, like almonds, could not be produced without the help of commercial beekeepers.


The Hive Detectives is a Junior Library Guild Selection and has already earned two *starred reviews* from Kirkus and Booklist, which calls it “fascinating” as “readers learn about the anatomy, development, and social behavior of honey bees, and observe the process of scientific investigation and its vital, real-world application.”

photo by coutl.

Please join me now in congratulating Loree on another fabulous book! The flavor of today’s soup will be enhanced if you wear something yellow, black or fuzzy, and if you buzz enthusiastically after each slurp. Purists may wish to use a thin straw to simulate the sipping of nectar. If you wish to rub your legs or thorax against the side of the bowl, go for it. Happy Pub Day, Loree! You are the Queen of Science Authors!

Today’s Special: Flower Petal Potage (seasoned to perfection with pepper and pollen).

Like the best of bees, you’re probably craving something very sweet right about now. Not to worry. For dessert, we have honey butter cookies:

 photo by taleitalei.

beehive cookies,

 photo by T-Wood’s.

and busy bee cupcakes.

 photo by Happiness in a Bite.

Okay, bee a honey and fly over to your local indie or click through to your fave online bookseller to purchase your very own copy of The Hive Detectives. If you land in a bricks and mortar store, carefully observe the drones and workers. By all means, call the cashier, “Honey,” while you gently explain the importance of this book. Spread the buzz!


Official website page featuring Bee Research.

Read about some of Loree’s research trips at her blog, A Life in Books.

Interview with Kathy Erskine here.

♥ The Hive Detectives was featured as Nonfiction Book of the Month in the inaugural issue of The 4:00 Book Hook newsletter. To subscribe, just send an email to: thebookhook (at) gmail (dot) com, and put “SUBSCRIBE” in the subject line. Très cool!

THE HIVE DETECTIVES by Loree Griffin Burns
photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz
published by Houghton Mifflin, May 2010
Nonfiction for ages 10+, 66 pages
Review copy provided by publisher

The official “We Love Loree” Worker Bears Fan Club.

Today’s Nonfiction Monday Roundup is at Bookends Blog.

*Spreads posted by permission, text copyright © 2010 Loree Griffin Burns, photographs © 2010 Ellen Harasimowicz, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

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