We caught up with Charlotte Milner to chat bee tutus, the power of picture books and how kids can help in saving the bees. Charlotte is the buzzworthy author and illustrator of The Bee Book.
Your work in five words:
Colourful, playful, engaging, informative, relevant.
Three objects you couldn’t do without:
- A sketchbook, a tote bag and a water bottle
- If a movie was made about your life it would be called…
- Girl with a Bee Earring (because I have way too much bee jewellery!)
Honey bees or bumble bees?!
A picture book is a fun thing, but the decline of bees is a serious topic. How do you think illustration can help kids understand today’s environmental issues?
Picture books can visually explain what is happening in the world in a simple and concise way, so they are a great tool to help raise more serious topics to children. When a parent and child are reading together, it creates a context in which children can ask questions and have a conversation about these topics... and adults can learn from these books too! I certainly buy a lot of children's non-fiction because they are so good at explaining topics in a way that is visual and entertaining.
We hear The Bee Book features a bee in a tutu (among a host of other lovely, playful illustrations)! What specific piece of design was the most fun to work on?
That was definitely one of them! When I learned that bees dance to communicate, it was such a beautiful concept that sparked a lot of design ideas. The other design that was a lot of fun was the one showing the life of a worker bee. These bees have so many different roles across their lifetime, from cleaning, to building, and guarding their nest. I loved creating a design that allows readers to follow a bee through these jobs. It’s an amazing system that’s enforced by nature to keep the colony well-ordered and healthy.
Bees are small, but they’re part of a very large conversation! What was the biggest challenge you faced while putting together The Bee Book?
There are around 20,000 different species of bees, which is actually more than there are species of birds and mammals combined! Because of this, it was difficult not to include many other types of bees (and make a much longer book!) but in the end I decided to focus primarily on the well-known honey bee. Bee decline is actually effecting some of the lesser-known bees the most, but I hope that by understanding a honey bee's world, readers will want to know more about the other bees out there too.
Why do you think kids will love this book?
As a child I remember watching the bumblebees fly from flower to flower across the bushes of lavender we had in the garden. I think children have a strong familiarity with bees because they are able to take a close look at them in the outdoors. I hope that learning about bees will satisfy children’s curiosity about these creatures, and answer questions such as Why do bees need flowers?, Why do they buzz? and How do honey bees make honey? In creating this book I became completely absorbed in the world of bees and I hope kids will love learning about them as much as I did.