Holiday House sat down with author Candace Fleming to discuss her award-winning picture book, Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera, illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Eric Rohmann.
Candace, please let us know a bit about your book.
Honeybee follows the daily activities of Apis Mellifera, from the moment she chews her way from her waxy cell, through the many task she performs in her hive, to her final days gathering nectar.
What was the inspiration behind the book?
While I wanted to write a nonfiction book about honeybees, I didn’t want to simply focus on the plight of our pollinators. After all, this is a book for the picture book set. How can they care about the possibility of honeybees becoming extinct without knowing the wonder of that creature’s life? And so I set about writing a nonfiction story that would follow just one honeybee—Apis—through the many, varied tasks of her life. Will she fly? Not until she cleans, cares for the queen, builds comb, and guards the hive (among other activities). When she finally leaves the darkness of her small, dark hive world for the glorious world beyond, my goal was to make kids gasp at the glory of it all. When she dies, I wanted them to cry . . . care.
What makes this book special to you? What impression do you hope it will leave with young readers?
I hope young readers will care about honeybees, really care. I hope they’ll see this as a life story, rather than a compilation of bee facts. I wanted them to take this honeybee—and ultimately all honeybees —to their hearts.
What inspired you to write, and when did you know you would become an author?
I’ve loved books, stories, and libraries since childhood, and I’ve been writing my own stories since I was a kid. But it wasn’t until I had my own children that I decided to try my hand at creating books for young readers. Reading aloud to my sons was sort of an awakening. Simply put, I fell in love with children’s literature.
What was your favorite book growing up?
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig (still my favorite book)
What is your favorite memory from childhood?
Story time at the library with Miss Snyder. Honestly, I don’t remember a single book she read to us, but at the end of each session she opened up a treasure chest filled with brightly colored, foil-wrapped candies and let each of us chose one . . . sometimes two. I blame Miss Snyder for my habit of eating and reading.
Do you have any pets?
I currently have three pets—Oxford, an eighty-pound mixed-breed dog; Oliver, an American shorthair cat; and Betty, a rose-tipped tarantula.
Name three of your favorite authors/children’s book authors of all time.
William Steig, Russell Freedman, Marguerite Henry
What book from your childhood changed your life? Adulthood?
Island of the Blue Dolphins—it was the first time I’d ever read a book based on a true story. The author’s note (the first time I’d ever read one of those, too) blew me away. History, I realized, was mesmerizing, compelling, a place filled with story. Thanks, Scott O’ Dell!
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson—I’m still processing and thinking and returning to this title.
What is your favorite food?
Sushi and Reese’s peanut butter cups—loved equally.
Has it changed since childhood?
Naw, I loved those peanut butter cups back then, too.
What food did you hate growing up but came to love in adulthood?
Vegetables, especially stuff like kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts.
Who was your hero growing up? Who is it now?
Wonder Woman then.
Bryan Stevenson now.
About Candace Fleming
Candace Fleming is the author of more than twenty distinguished books for children including the seven-starred-review Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera, illustrated by Eric Rohmann, winner of an NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor; Cubs in the Tub: The True Story of the Bronx Zoo’s First Woman Zookeeper, illustrated by Julie Downing, a Junior Library Guild Selection; and The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia, winner of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Nonfiction, the NCTE Orbus Pictus Award, and a Sibert Honor, among others. For more about Candace, visit CandaceFleming.com.