The Bees of Notre-Dame

Random House Studio. Oct. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593374566.
Gr 1-3–An overhead view of Notre-Dame before the blaze of April 2019 sets the scene; the book opens on spring in Paris, as Sibyle the beekeeper tends to the hives that are situated on a high terrace of the cathedral’s Sacristy, near the famous rose windows. The bees, dormant over winter, find their ways to the blossoms of a French spring while their queen lays eggs in the centuries-old wax of the honeycomb. Then fire breaks out, and the fire-fighting is swift as heartbreaking events unfold; there is never a thought but that all will be rebuilt. A second overhead view, post-fire, shows readers the extent of the damage and what was saved or salvaged. The facts are presented poetically, with license, so that text about the bees dancing directions for other bees as to the location of pollen is shown next to a scene of the queen laying eggs. The melding of two compelling stories—beekeeping at the cathedral and the fire—acts to weaken both, and the last sentence only underscores this: “When the tall black cloud of smoke and ash finally clears, the sun rises to say, ‘Come! Rebuild. Work with each other. You are stronger together. Just like the bees.’” Back matter includes more about the story in an author’s note, along with diagrams of Notre Dame and recommended reading.
VERDICT A messy hybrid of two promising stories results in a lovingly created book that will find an audience but reads like a lost opportunity.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing