Interview with Melissa Edwards, author of "Can You See If Iím a Bee?"

Melissa Edwardsí book, Can You See If Iím a Bee? teaches children all about bees in a rhyming, whimsical way. They learn about some of the different species of bees, as well as insects that look like or mimic them. There are funny facts about some of the bees and children are also taught why bees are so important and what they can do to help save these essential pollinators from extinction.

An appendix offers more information about the various bee specifics and mimics, should elementary school teachers or parents wish to go into further depth teaching the children about bees.

Edwards answered a few questions about her book.

SAN FRANCISCO BOOK FESTIVAL: What inspired you to write this book?

Melissa Edwards: While I was doing research to design an outdoor classroom for an elementary school, I learned about the large variety of bee species that often go unrecognized. There are also other insects that mimic bees and thus bees can sometimes get a bad reputation due to this; for example, when a yellow jacket, which is highly aggressive when it comes to stinging, is mistaken for a bee. Also, it became apparent that bees are disappearing at an alarming rate, which has a direct effect on our food sources. When I presented photos of bees and their mimics using the title ďAm I A Bee?Ē to the elementary students, they enjoyed this guessing game, so I decided it would be a good idea to write an educational book about bees for children in this format.

SFBF: What do you hope young readers get from it?

ME: I hope that young readers learn about some of the different types of bees and that they donít need to be afraid of them; only cautious, as most bees donít sting. Also, if they are careful, young readers can do things to prevent being stung by those which do. My wish is that the children understand how seriously important bees are to our survival and start to proactively do some of the things suggested in my book to help save them.

SFBF: Why bees, and not spiders or other insects?

ME: All insects are important to the environment, but bees are critical to our survival as they pollinate most of our food sources. Without bees, the diversity and availability of produce would substantially decline, and human nutrition is certain to suffer. Some plants would be unable to pollinate without bees and would become extinct as well.

SFBF: Bee colonies are under duress in different parts of the world. Will your promotional efforts address that?

ME: Yes, my promotional efforts would address not only the stress under which bee colonies are currently but also the plight of the native bees which are amazing pollinators. My book is already being promoted by Pollinator Partnership, a company that promotes the health of pollinators, critical to food and ecosystems, through conservation, education and research.

SFBF: How did you feel about your book placing as the runner-up in the Childrenís Picture Book category?

ME: Being a first-time author and receiving the runner-up award for the Childrenís Picture Book category was such a big achievement and it helped me gain self-confidence with my commitment to do what I can in order to spread the word about the plight of bees and other important pollinators to children everywhere.

SFBF: What did you learn while creating this book?

ME: With the help of a bee expert, I learned a lot about bees and their behavior. I learned that they are highly misunderstood creatures. They are commonly associated with their aggressive cousins, such as the yellow jacket wasp that is aggressive and has a nasty sting. Most bees donít sting at all (male bees canít sting for example) and those that do only sting if they are feeling threatened. Bees are also responsible for one of every three bites of food that we eat, which shows how important they are to humankindís survival.

SFBF: Whatís next for you?

ME: Iíve written several other childrenís books and Iíd like to publish my next one titled ďWho Am I?Ē, a story about another special pollinator who goes on a journey to discover who she is and finally discovers the answer with the help of other known and not-so-well-known pollinators.