For almost a decade, Tucson desert dwellers Paul Mirocha and Steve Buchmann, along with co-author, Diana Cohn from Sausalito, CA, have been traveling to the Malaysian rain forest, half a world away, to work on The Bee Tree, a new children’s picture book, featuring paintings by Paul Mirocha, published by Cinco Puntos Press in April 2007.

The Bee Tree tells the story of a Malaysian boy, Nizam, living in a village near the rain forest. His grandfather, Pak Teh, the leader of the honey hunting clan, is growing too old to climb the great bee tree and decides that Nizam is the one to take his place. Pak Teh and Nizam do not live in the forest, but their trips there to collect wild honey have taught them to respect the wild places, Not only is it in their best interest to do so, it’s part of the long tradition of all the honey hunters that came before them.
No one knows where the bees come from, or where they go after they leave the bee tree. But they come back every year in huge swarms, flying just above the treetops. From his grandfather, he learns the secrets of the honey hunters that has allowed them to climb the 200 foot “tualang” or bee tree, in the darkness of the new moon and collect the valuable honey of the giant wild asian bees without harm.
By lamplight in the honey hunters forest camp, the reader also hears the ancient story of the origin of the bees, and about the deep relationship these villagers have with these migrating bees, the forest, the other species that call it home, and the “unseen owner” of the forest.

The creation of The Bee Tree was an intercultural exchange between individuals from different countries whose governments do not always trust each other. Yet the characters in the book are real people who through the course of the project became friends and collaborators with the traveling authors. Without that basis of mutual acceptance of, and respect for, differences in religion and culture, the book would not exist. It’s also an accurate description of one of the most beautiful and oldest forests on earth. As in other tropical places, this forest is in danger as humans seek to tap the treasure of its resources.

The story of the Malaysia honey hunters shows a base of traditional knowledge and values that teaches children and adults to conserve wild places complete, with every thread of life intact. That’s the kind of forest that the bees will return to every year.

—Paul Mirocha

Listen to an interview with Steve Buchmann about the Honey Hunt on NPR’s Environmental Report, sponsored by The Nature Conservancy

Awards

The Bee Tree was chosen for Special Recognition by the judges for the 2008 Paterson Prize for Books for Young People.
The Bee Tree was also chosen as a 2008 Skipping Stones Honor Award book! The 15th Annual Skipping Stones Honor Awards recognize 26 exceptional books and teaching resources. Together, they encourage an understanding of the world’s diverse cultures, as well as nature and ecological richness. The selection promotes cooperation, nonviolence, respect for differing viewpoints, and close relationships in human societies.


Buy a signed copy of The Bee Tree

The price is $18.00, including autograph and media mail shipping. Retail price at bookstores is $17.95.

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For more of the Malaysia travel story, please see:

SE Asia Trip Journal 2007
Malaysia Trip Journal: 2004
Malaysia Sketchbook







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