Bee a Friend
Written by Kerry Sather, Illustrated by David Mark
Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$19.95 ISBN 9-781988-783673
Saskatchewan’s seen a veritable hive of activity in children’s book publishing this summer – I’ve reviewed four titles – and one fun-filled book that’s joined the shelves is the illustrated hardcover Bee A Friend, penned by Kerry Sather and illustrated by David Mark, both of Nokomis. Ten years ago Sather released the award-winning Bee Yourself, which focused on self-esteem, and this new release “investigates the meaning of friendship” through a successful confluence of simple words and stylish illustrations.
Dedicated to the author’s grandchildren and other “little friends,” this rhyming, will-you-be-my-friend? tale features green-dominant illustrations with cartoon-style creatures – the narrator is a gregarious bumblebee – and four lines of text on each page. There’s also a tiny, witty fly flitting across the pages: its cryptic lines – ie: “This is too much!” – deliver an amusing commentary on the Bee’s persistent search for new pals in the garden once “The snow has melted and spring is here”.
The expressive bee’s first potential friend is a red ant, comically portrayed in an army helmet. (The fly’s two bits: “Sir, yes, sir!”) The bumblebee considers how “These army buddies dig deep to build their home. They always work together, they’re never alone.” A caterpillar’s the next contender; then a “dull grey slimy thing, catching a little breeze on the rock where he clings;” a “slithering snake;” a “chubby” mole (in jeans and suspenders, of course!); a “big fat cat;” a “silly old dog;” and a bespectacled and smiling human gardener. As with many children’s books, there’s a refrain in this story: “I am a bumblebee … would you like to be friends with me?” which even toddlers can say along with the reader.
I studied the illustrations and I found that rural Saskatchewan life is well-represented via objects including grain bins, a wind turbine, a water barrel, a pitchfork, hills of potatoes, and a barbed wire fence. The famed prairie sky is portrayed in tri-colour blues and the occasional cumulous cloud, and even the daisies and trees appear cheerful in this feel-good story.
Illustrator David Mark moved to Nokomis from Winnipeg, “where he spent countless hours as a kid drawing pictures and dreaming of building a drafting table under the stairs,” and perhaps one of the reasons the words and illustrations “marry” so well here is because Mark and Sather are close friends. (In my trade publishing experience, often illustrators are contracted directly by the publisher and the writer doesn’t know them … I didn’t even see a sketch before my own two children’s books were published.)
Sather’s biography states that “She is always thinking up the next journey a little bee might take readers on,” so I expect we’ll be following Bee’s story in the future.
Once again, Heather Nickel – the force behind Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing – has designed and produced a quality book that feels good in the hands and delights ears and eyes. The message: even though we have differences, we can still be friends, and the search for new friends is downright fun.
THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM