“We may do things differently, but that doesn’t make my way better than his. We both play out our role in nature, and I wouldn’t intentionally interfere with his attempts to survive” — Sisyphus, The Way of the Hive, n. pag.
|Creator(s)||Jay Hosler (author)|
|Genre||Animal Comic, Educational, Fiction|
|Environmental Themes and Issues||Educational Nature Facts, Animals in Danger, Anthropomorphism,|
|Protagonist’s Identity||Nyuki, a female bee – Nonhuman (Animal)|
|Protagonist’s Level of Environmental Agency||Level 1: No Acknowledgement of Environmental Issues|
|Target Audience||Middle Grade (8 to 12 years)|
Jay Hosler’s graphic novel The Way of the Hive: A Bee’s Story educates young readers about honeybees by tracing the life of female honeybee Nyuki, beginning with her infancy as a larva and ending with her death as an elderly forager bee. Hosler anthropomorphizes the animals and even plants, portraying them as talking to each other and making jokes. As a larva, Nyuki listens as Dvorah, another bee, recounts stories from honeybee mythology. Dvorah tells her, “One group, known as the honey bees, cared for the children of the world flower in exchange for nectar and pollen. This is the story of that clan, Clan Apis” (Hosler, n. pag.). After relating this story, Dvorah teaches Nyuki about the process of metamorphosis, providing facts about honeybee larvae and the biological processes that they undergo as they grow into pupa. After emerging from her larva stage, Nyuki joins Dvorah and other bees as they travel in a swarm to establish a new hive.
During the swam, Nyuki ventures away from the rest of the hive to explore the environment on her own. She encounters a hostile praying mantis and a spider who attempt to eat her, as well as a kindly dung beetle who leads her back to her hive. After this frightening adventure, Nyuki vows to stay inside the hive and work on constructing the cells of the hive. Other creatures arrive to threaten the hive, including an unfamiliar honeybee, a woodpecker, and a mouse. Dvorah stings the woodpecker to defend the hive. Nyuki carries the dying bee outside, and Dvorah encourages her to stop hiding in the hive. After the death of her mentor, Nyuki becomes a forager bee, traveling outside the hive to collect honey. She grows old and dies at the base of a flower, which her body will fertilize so that she can return to the hive as nectar during the next spring.
Throughout the comic, the inquisitive Nyuki asks the creatures that she encounters many questions about the lifecycle of honeybees and environmental processes. Though the dialogue occasionally borders on overly didactic, the comic does effectively convey a wealth of environmental knowledge to young readers through the engaging narrative. Curiously, however, neither the primary narrative nor the paratexts mention the various human-made threats to honeybees or their declining populations. Humans and human materials do not appear at all in the comic, which instead portrays an untouched environment populated by animals, insects, and plants.
The comic includes extensive paratextual materials that supplement the environmental information conveyed in the primary narrative. Three pages of diagrams identify different parts of a honey bee’s anatomy and their functions. Additionally, the paratext includes a lengthy “Annotations” section that, Hosler writes, is “designed to expand upon some of the science described in the story and answer questions that might have popped up as you read” (n. pag.). This section provides detailed annotations for each chapter that provide additional information about honey bees and other creatures that Nyuki encounters, along with illustrations that expand on the textual scientific explanations. Finally, the paratext includes a list of nonfictional references that Hosler used to create the comic.
“The Way of the Hive.” Kirkus Reviews, 9 February 2021, https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/jay-hosler/the-way-of-the-hive/.