Review by Lyn Thomson for the CROSS-POLLINATOR, Newsletter of the Australian Native Bee Association, Issue 40, February 2023
“Princess Bee and the Boy” by Matthew Middleton, Illustrations by Jade De Baecque 2022, ISBN: 9780646856254 Paperback edition Published by: Beezotted $20. Buy at https://beezotted.com.au/shop/books/ princess-bee-and-the-boy/
The community leaders of Kalumburu have given their blessing and consent for Matthew to share this story.
What first struck me when I received the book were the beautiful illustrations. Then when I began to read, I was just as enamoured with the words and descriptions. Such as, “His mouth exploded with the rich sweetness of honey. The warmth of it trickled inside him.”
The book follows the story of a boy exploring nature and what he discovers. However, it also tells the story of his fixation or addiction to sweet native bee honey. Matthew describes the boy’s addiction in a way that is both factual and yet with touches of whimsy; by using nature and the animals to describe despair in a way that does not frighten children.
The use of onomatopoeia is scattered brilliantly throughout the book. Children love hearing and practicing the sounds, which is great for interactive learning. The use of the Bold sentences to highlight changes, made the changes instantly visual. For example, “All except one.” AND as any good story has, along came a hero, The Princess Bee!
The story of pollination is told through the Queen Bee and the “meeting at the beach of all the birds and animals of land, and all the creatures of the sea,” demonstrating the importance of working together. I often wonder is it where the land ends or the ocean begins. This story expresses there is no end; it is one.
The description of the making of the first digeridoo is also a great touch to the story. There are many delightful stories within the story. Is there an underlying story within the book? I believe there is. The boy is a symbol for humanity’s greed and how it can destroy everything; but by working together and teaching others we can overcome catastrophes. They say there are the ten essential moral values that build character and instil positive behaviour in kids, respect, honesty, compassion, hard work, kindness, gratitude, sharing, and cooperation. I believe that this story demonstrates most of those moral values.
This is not just a book for children, some of my Coraki book club members also read the book and found it just as delightful as I did. Mathew has achieved turning an oral story into a delightful book; his love and knowledge of Australian Native Bees shines throughout the story.