When the Bees Fly Home

It’s frustrating for young Jonathan, the son of a beekeeper, when he isn’t quite strong enough to help his dad with some of the work on the farm. Sometimes his father is irritable with him, and it’s worse now, because the family is struggling to make ends meet during a drought, and their bees aren’t making much honey.

When Jonathan’s mom stays up late one night to make beeswax candles to sell at the local farmer’s market, Jonathan comes downstairs to help. He puts his own skills to work modeling small wax animals and insects to decorate the candles—which prove so popular that they come home from the market with orders for lots more.

Boys often gain recognition for their strength and athletic ability, and those who do not fit into the traditional mold may feel misunderstood. When the Bees Fly Home helps us see that artistic and sensitive boys have their own special place.

The beeswax is smooth. I pass it from hand to hand until it is soft enough to mold. Then I form the shimmering wings of a honey bee.
Author perspective

My brother is a beekeeper. He loves his work, but he is often irritable with his less physical son. Actually, Jonathan in When the Bees Fly Home is a combination of my brother's son, Matthew, and my own son, Nicholas, who is artistic but not athletic. When Nicholas was growing up, I felt like it was hard for boys who preferred the arts over athletics to find their places in a competitive world. I hope this story will help boys like my nephew and my son to feel more comfortable with who they are.


reS.-Gr. 2. Hard times have fallen on Jonathan's family. There is a drought and the bees that provide his family's living are not producing honey. It doesn't help that Jonathan is not as suited for the heavy work of beekeeping as his younger brother, whom his father seems to favor. But when Jonathan decorates his mother's handmade beeswax candles, he discovers a talent can help the family. The candles sell well at the market, and the family comes home with a stack of orders for more. Large, captivating watercolors accompany this moving story of a boy whose search for acceptance leads him to discover his own abilities. Facts about bees, printed in text that loops like the flight of the insect, complement the family story on each page. A short list of bee resources is appended." Helen Rosenberg. American Library Association. All rights reserved.

Book type: 
Picture book
Tilbury House
Joline McFadden
Publication date: 
May 2002
Interest level: