The Humblebee Hunter
Inspired by the Life and Experiments of Charles Darwin and his Children
by Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrated by Jen Corace
About the book:
On a beautiful day, the last thing Etty wants to do is sit inside baking honey cake. She’d much rather be outside. Who wouldn’t? And there’s no better person to be outside with than Etty’s father, Charles Darwin.
While many might be familiar with the story of Darwin’s theory of evolution, few of us have had the opportunity to see Darwin the family man—at home in England, doing what he loved best—walking, exploring, observing. All the while he pursued the answers to his most persistent questions, and he often had a little bit of help.
In her lyrical story of Charles Darwin at home with his children, Deborah Hopkinson portrays a very human side of one of the most revered figures in the history of science. In doing so, she sows the natural affinity children have for the scientific process.
About the author:
Deborah Hopkinson is the author of many acclaimed books for children including Stagecoach Sal; Apples for Oregon, an ALA Notable Book; and Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, winner of the IRA award. She lives in Oregon.
About the illustrator:
Jen Corace has illustrated many books for children, including Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal—a 2005 Book Sense Children’s Pick and an IRA Children’s Choice in 2006—and Little Hoot, also by Rosenthal. She recently illustrated Hansel and Gretel, a retelling by Cynthia Rylant. A graduate of the Rhose Island School of Design with a BFA in Illustration, Jen lives and works in Providence, Rhode Island.
Questions to consider:
- What is Henrietta being asked to learn how to do? What do you get asked to do that you’d rather not?
- Where would Henrietta rather be? Do you love to play outside best too?
- What do you think is a kitchen garden? If you had one what would you grow?
- What did mother compare Henrietta’s father to? What animal or insect are you most like?
- Describe what happened when Mr. Darwin tried to capture three rare beetles at the same time.
- What were Henrietta’s favorite stories about? If you could go anywhere in the world to study an animal where would you go and what would you research?
- What was the most important thing Mr. Darwin collected? How did he teach this habit to his children?
- What questions did the children create before each of their experiments?
- How does Etty finally get out of the kitchen? Do you think she’s happy? What details let you know?
- Explain how the family would keep track of the bees. What was the question that this experiment would answer?
- What did Henrietta observe about the bee?
- After reading this book, what else would you like to learn about Charles Darwin and his experiments?
Across the curriculum:
Like Darwin, good readers look for important facts as they study a topic. As you read or listen to the story make a list of all the facts you know about Henrietta and her family. Then, circle which facts you think are most important to the story. Discuss with a reading partner about why you chose these facts.
The author, Deborah Hopkinson, tells the story of a family but uses poetic language to bring it to life. Reread the story and find at least three phrases that are written in a poetic way. What makes this writing memorable? How does she use details and strong verbs to create images in the reader’s mind? Revise your current piece of writing inspired by the author’s work.
Like Henrietta and her siblings, go outside and observe closely something in nature. Create a question that you would like answered and try to develop an experiment. Fill out the following chart as your guide:
What I observed:
A question I have:
An experiment that could answer this question:
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Math and Science are great companions. It’s good to take data and then convert it into charts or graphs that can be easily understood by others without having to read long paragraphs! Go into your backyard (or nearby park) and take data on how many of the following you can count: trees, birds, bushes, clouds, children, and insects. Then, put the data into two different types of graphs.
On the last page of the story the artist decided to do a close up of the bumblebee, just as Henrietta had to closely observe it. Go outside and choose one thing (it does not have to be an insect or animal) and create a sketch that zooms in and fills the page with a detailed drawing. Add color if you wish.
Sing this tune to “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush”
Let’s go follow
the humble bee, the humble bee,
the humble bee
Let’s go follow the humble bee
and count as he lands!
Let’s go out play for worms
play for worms, play for worms
Let’s go out and play for worms
and see if they notice!
Let’s go out
and count some snakes, count some snakes
count some snakes
let’s go out and count some snakes
as many as we can!
Lets go out and experiment
Let’s go out and experiment
and see what we can learn!