NPM #12

Today I get to share one of my most recent favorite collections of poetry for children: “Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold” by Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen.  Sidman has once again written a wonderful collection of poems.  This time they focus on only one season (i.e., winter) and include nonfiction sidebars to help educate the reader with some background knowledge that might make them want to reread each poem on the same page.

And the art work by Allen is delightful.  Not only does it have a unique look (linoleum block printing combined with digital work), but he has incorporated an animal (a fox) that dashes through almost every page encountering (or avoiding) the other animals and elements found in the book.

The poem I chose to share today is the one that gives the book its title: “Winter Bees.”  I admit I had never heard of bees “shivering” or even thought about what they do in winter.  This one taught me something new.  I share both picture and typed up versions of the text.

winter bees

“Winter Bees”
We are an ancient tribe,
a hardy scrum.
Born with eyelash legs
and tinsel wings,
we are nothing on our own.
Together, we are One.


We scaled a million blooms
to reap the summer’s glow.
Now, in the merciless cold,
we share each morsel of heat,
each honeyed crumb.
We cram to a sizzling ball
to warm our queen, our heart, our home.
Alone, we would falter and drop,
a dot on the canvas of snow.
Together, we boil, we teem, we hum.
Deep in the winter hive,
we burn like a golden sun.


Honeybees hang together at all times, but especially in winter.  They are one of the few insects in the Northern Hemisphere that remain active in freezing weather, and they do it in typical bee fashion: by gathering, sharing, and communicating.  All summer they collect nectar, which they transform into honey in wax-covered cells.  As the air turns colder, bees begin to cluster around their queen, who represents the future of the hive.  The colder it gets, the tighter they huddle, shrinking to a football-size mass that slowly eats its way through the carefully stored honey.  Hungry hive-mates farther from the honey comb will “beg” for food, which is then passed from bee to bee.  When hive temperatures drop to dangerous levels, the outer-rim bees sound the alarm and the cluster begins to “shiver”–flex their flight muscles–to generate heat.  While worker bees cycle in and out of the cluster’s warm center, the queen remains at its heart, ready to resume her egg-laying at the first sign of spring.

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