A Bear, a Bee, and a Honey Tree by Daniel Bernstrom

This one’s a gem, people. I cannot recommended it highly enough.

You can’t help but notice the art first, naturally. You get a look at this amazing cover, and you wonder: Can it be that the entire book is this impossibly appealing? Oh, it be, all right. Every page turn left me gaping anew. The warm colors and tones, the style, the lush landscape, the humor. Scroll down a bit to see three textless spreads illustrator Brandon James Scott was kind enough to share.

Since most of us here are writers, let’s talk about author Daniel Bernstrom’s text. It’s spare. Ultra spare. Yet it grabbed me from the get-go, and the 4-yr-old grandson I read it to couldn’t look away (and then asked for multiple reads). Take a minute or three to see it for yourself in this Astra/Hippo Park-approved read aloud:


Writing short, as most of you are well aware, is the most difficult writing of all. Here’s the huge task Daniel Bernstrom set for himself. Create a lyrical/rhythmic story that:

  1. introduces compelling animal characters in a natural way that
  2. shows each character’s simple, driving force. The bee –> collects/protects honey. The bear –> wants to eat honey.
  3. brings about, in a simple way, the inevitable uh-oh moment, when those opposing forces collide.
  4. plays out the cause and effect with a wild chase as the entire swarm goes after the bear.
  5. presents an ending that leaves little readers satisfied

Did he succeed? By cracky, he DID. Beautifully. The fact that he did all that in less than 225 words is … well, I bow to you, Mr. Bernstrom. No wonder you are a fast-rising star!

The bee, happily going about its business.
The uh-oh moment.
The bear’s OS moment: illustrative perfection.

Looking for a mentor text on how to leave room for an illustrator? After getting my paws on both this book and Bernstrom’s One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree, I can confidently tell you to look no further. Find a Daniel Bernstrom book and dive in. And I know you’re like me, and will be looking for more work from Brandon James Scott, too, because whoa.

Meanwhile, hope you’re all following along with Tara Lazar’s STORYSTORM for daily inspiration and motivation throughout these January doldrums. I know I am!

Jill Esbaum

Jill Esbaum has been picture book crazy since her 3 kids were little, and especially so after her first was published in 2004 (Stink Soup). Recent titles: Stinkbird Has a Superpower, Jack Knight's Brave Flight, Where'd My Jo Go?, Frog Boots, How to Grow a Dinosaur, Frankenbunny, If a T. Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party, Elwood Bigfoot– Wanted: Birdie Friends!, Teeny Tiny Toady, I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo!, and more. Coming in 2024: Parrotfish Has a Superpower (a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection) and Bird Girl: Gene Stratton-Porter Shares Her Love of Nature with the World (another JLG Gold Standard Selection). She's also the author of many nonfiction books for young readers, as well as an early graphic reader series, Thunder & Cluck. Learn more at http://jillesbaum.com.


  1. Sounds amazing! I’m off to get my copy!

  2. Oh, my! What a delight! This book is ALL a picture book should be – a wonderful story delightfully told in spare text, with illustrations adding wonderful layers to the tale. I just watched the approved read aloud and will share this with my local library’s children’s dept to make sure they order the book in for their collection.

  3. Just put this one on hold at the library!

  4. Steps 1-5 are going to be my Storystorm prompt today! Putting this on my TBR list.

  5. The look on bear’s face with all those angry bees ready to attack is priceless and definitely perfection.

  6. By cracky, I already love and want this book! It’s a winner in every aspect -congrats!

  7. What a fun book! I enjoyed sharing it with my daughter. Thank you for including the read-aloud video link!

  8. This does look delightful. And I like your books too, Jill! And yes, what a great POV of the bee

  9. Can’t wait to see this one! Thanks, Jill! And congrats to Daniel and Brandon!

  10. Wow! Now comes another Hold at the library. Thank you so much for sharing this perfect picture book.

  11. Such a darling book! Congratulations, Daniel.

  12. This looks cute. Thanks for sharing!

  13. This does sound like perfection. And I LOVE the perspective of the bees from inside the tree. Thanks for the rec!

  14. Wonderful book. Can’t wait to get my hands on it! Thanks for sharing, Jill!

  15. What a fantastic book. Congrats to Daniel and Brandon. Is on my to read list.

  16. Henceforth, ALL bees should have such marvelously expressive eyebrows in picture books!

    Love this!

  17. Those illustrations are amazing! This book is on my list to get!

  18. I cannot wait to read this to our grandsons! I can hear the laughter already.

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