Sun in My Tummy, by Toronto author Laura Alary, is a radiant picture-book homage to our nearest star and main source of energy on earth. Early in the morning, before the sun is up, a young girl snuggles deep beneath her blankets, hoping to catch a few more winks. Reluctantly answering a call to rise and shine, the sleepyhead traipses down the stairs. Like a beacon in the dark, the brightly lit kitchen is aglow with familial warmth. The child’s mother cooks a nutritious breakfast that feeds the body and mind, and also serves up plenty of information about how the sun nourishes us all.
Unfolding at a leisurely pace, this kitchen table conversation covers a lot of ground, which includes plant life cycles, food webs, and photosynthesis. The rhythmic second-person narration is immediately immersive and full of relatable, child-friendly comparisons: “Not long ago, these oats were a field of swaying grasses. Before that, seeds, snuggled deep in the dark earth, like you in your blankets. What woke them? The sun!”
Scientific concepts are presented in easy-to-understand, lyrical language. Nature is full of surprises, and the chemical process that plants use to transform carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight into sugar – which in turn fuels life – is described with beguiling awe and infectious enthusiasm: “Food from thin air!” As the hungry little girl tucks into her bowl of oatmeal and blueberries, delicious prompts like “Is that the taste of sunlight?” encourage inspection, reflection, and sensory engagement.
The continuous and interconnected cycles explored in the free-verse-like text (“When seeds go back to the soil they make new plants, which make more seeds, which make more plants. On and on it goes. Do you see?”) are illuminated in Andrea Blinick’s mixed-media illustrations. Ever-present, the sun appears peeking over the horizon at dawn, as well as in many luminous details in the child’s bedroom, from a cushion to a crayon drawing to her novelty-print pyjamas.
Appreciation for this all-important celestial body clearly shines through. An author’s endnote offers additional information on photosynthesis and further food for thought: “So anytime you take a breath, or have a snack, or sit down for a meal, thank green plants and the sun for making it all possible.”
Honeybees are also essential to the intricate food chain. Daphne’s Bees – an informational picture book by debut author Catherine Dempsey, past president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Beekeeping Association – effectively captures the buzz on apiculture.
On her 10th birthday, Daphne is excited to get her own beehive. Under the guidance of her grandmother, an experienced beekeeper, the child learns how to assemble hive boxes, set up a colony, care for the insects, and gather honey. Daphne is as busy as a worker bee. Patience, planning, and focus are required as the young apprentice builds and hones her own skills.
In an easygoing, forthright manner, the mentor conversationally shares a beekeeping manual’s worth of information: “This is the brood box. It’s where the queen will lay the eggs that will become the members of the colony. We won’t need the other boxes until later in the summer.” Longer expository passages read like a nature documentary, as the story unfolds through a close observation of the inner workings of the hive throughout the seasons.
Newfoundland artist and designer Veselina Tomova’s richly hued paintings have a cheery and energetic folk-art quality. The rural scenes hum with activity, from backyard chickens pecking at the ground to pollinator-friendly flowers and trees in spectacular bloom. Illustrations that zoom in on honeybees on the job are particularly striking, with expert brush strokes on the wings giving the illusion of movement.
Extensive back matter includes facts (bees see colours differently from humans), figures (a queen bee lays between 1,500 and 2,000 eggs a day), and tips on how to “Bee a helper” (keep some of your garden messy). Nature is a wise teacher, and Daphne’s Bees offers a crash course in teamwork, conservation, and caring for your community.