‘Honey Bee Rescue’ – Editing Example of a Children’s Story

‘Honey Bee Rescue’ – Editing Example of a Children’s Story

OK… thank you for ordering my editing example service. I like to go through a writer’s work as any first time reader would. My comments and critiques will reflect that and always be in pink. Please note any deletions against the original.

Let’s get started…

Honey Bee Rescue


Ashley, Maria, Marcus, Jose, and Alexander all lived on the same block. So they played together. Pretty much every day. But they were surprised by what this particular day had for them today.

Illustrator note:

They were out riding their bikes and scooters, having races and jumping off of the curb in front of Alexander’s house when they heard a yell. Ashley and Maria are twins. Marcus is black. Jose is Latino. Alexander is white.

OK… I can see here that the notes for the illustrator and the actual story are quite different. This is a big Red Flag right off the bat. New writers often do this. They think the pictures can fill in a few gaps in the story or tell it in a way they can’t with words. No. It doesn’t work like that.

This is not a picture book… correct? If the characters are old enough to ride bikes then the audience for this book is much older than 2-4. Which is the age range for a picture book.

Pictures are there to backup the story… not tell it. The story should stand on its own without pictures. The illustrations add a wonderful touch… like icing on the cake. However, if the cake isn’t baked properly, the icing can’t do much but cover it up a little.. Right?

So, to fix this first page… tell us they’re riding their bikes when they hear someone shout. The information you’ve told the illustrator is more specific than the actual story… which is backwards.

Concentrate on telling the story. Get descriptive and get specific. The illustrations should be a complement to this.. they should never give the reader more information than what’s already in the story.

A came running out of the alley at the end of the block making a racket. A what?? came running out of the alley???


Illustrator’s Note:

The man is running back to his van swatting at bees that are chasing him. TELL US this not the illustrator!!

They rode over to find out what would make a grown man run and squeal like a piglet.

We are going to need an exterminator over here. There are bees under the cover of the water main at the end of Moosehead Dr.” – Who says this??

An exterminator?” said Marcus, “Don’t they kill things?”

He can be here in an hour? Excellent!” said the man as he got into his van.

As the man in the van drove away, the kids could hear the quiet buzz coming from the back of the alley.

Jose said, “We have to save them!” – Why??

And they all knew that what Jose said was true. – Why?


Illustrator’s Note:

Man is on the phone talking about bees in the water main and needing an exterminator. He has on a city uniform and is maybe swatting at bees while he talks. – Tell US this!!! This is specific and descriptive. Add that to the story. If you add it to the story the illustrator will get it. Then the pictures can truly backup the story.

Old Man Tucker!” Ashley and Maria said together. (They often got the same idea at the same time). “He keeps bees. He’ll know what to do.” – Just tell us they are twins. Give us brief descriptions of all your characters. How will they be shown in the pictures? With little name tags near each of them so we know which one is which? How are we to know who is who?

It’s a writer’s job to create a story a reader gets drawn into. Every time a reader thinks.. OK, who said that? And which one is Maria? Is Alexander the black kid or the white one?… it takes them out of the story.

What you end up doing is spoil the imaginative process for the reader… which is the whole reason anyone reads a book AND you interrupt your own storytelling.


Illustrators note: Ashley and Maria are still twins. 🙂

And so the whole crew jumped on their wheels and clattered and pushed and pedaled to the end of their street where Mr. Tucker’s house sat back against the creek.

They dropped their bikes and scooters in his front yard and ran to the back where he was up a ladder in one of his plum trees.

Mr. Tucker,” said Alexander, “In one hour they are going to kill them.”

And then,” said Marcus, “They’ll be DEAD!”

OK… it’s important to start writing in a way that’s as economical as possible. Meaning, if you can say what you need to say in fewer words… do it. If it doesn’t need to be there at all… cut it out of this story which I’ll be using as an editing example.

Mr. Tucker frowned and worked his way slowly down the rungs of the ladder.

Hmmmm,” he said. “Who, exactly, is going to kill whom?” Really?????? If killing bees is that important then he would know this.

The children reported the story of the man in the van and the exterminator who was going to come and kill the honey bees and how they had come as fast as they could because they knew that Mr. Tucker had boxes of bees with his apple and plum trees and how they really hoped that he could do something to save them. You haven’t established why this is so important. At the beginning of the story there was a guy in an alley yelling and swatting at some bees.

Bees can be dangerous to some people beyond just a sting. In fact, they can be life threatening. If bees live in urban or suburban areas it puts people in a precarious situation.

In that scenario, as an editing example an exterminator is a good idea. If you want us to care about the bees… you’ve got to set this up better.

Well,” said old Mr. Tucker, “I’m glad that you’ve come.” He ran his hand down his long gray beard. “Let me get some supplies. We’ll see if we can’t rescue some bees.”

Mr. Tucker picked up a sturdy white pine box and gathered a pile of rectangular frames, a silver smoker, a blue metal pry-bar, a handful of newspaper and kindling, as well as, a small spool of thin silver wire. He placed it all in the white pine box and headed down the street towards the alley at the end of the street.

The crew of kids hung back and watched as Mr. Tucker leaned over the cement hole in the back of the alley.

They heard the buzzing bees and crunch of gravel under Mr. Tucker’s feet and watched nervously as his steady hands pulled at the grass and weeds surrounding the cement hole in the ground.

They smelled the tar and oil of the alley’s history as Old Mr. Tucker walked back to them looking serious.

Well my young charges,” said the gray bearded bee keeper, “You did the right thing. We can rescue these honey bees if we are careful, patient and gentle.” **no commas before the word “and.”**

Mr. Tucker unpacked his white pine box. He put the wooden rectangular frames, the spool of wire, and the empty crate over by the beehive. He brought the silver smoker filled with crumpled newspaper and kindling back to where the children were still standing nervously.

Out of his pocket he pulled a worn silver lighter with a bright yellow bee on the side. With a flick of his wrist and a pull of his thumb he lit the paper inside the silver smoke can.

With the little silver can Mr. Tucker pumped smoke into the air around the hive. Where is the hive? I thought it was down a cement hole? *editing example*

The little clouds of smoke floated up and away until Mr. Tucker put the tip of the smoker right into the entrance to the buzzing bee hive.

The bees, so full of gumption and activity, began to slow down. Some even stopped to rest and pump their little abdomens as the smoke surrounded them on every side.

The smoke makes them tired. And so they settle down to rest.”

Then he pulled out a blue pry bar and began gently and carefully separating the first honeycomb from the hive.

Does he not have any netting on? I’m not a bee keeping expert I’m just offering an editing example, but all the bee handlers I’ve ever seen wear special suits with netting over their heads. This seems rather dangerous even for someone who is experienced with bees. If he’s not allergic fine.. but he could still get stung… which is nasty.

The air around Mr. Tucker was suddenly full of the swirl of gold and yellow. The bees that had been searching the flowers for pollen were now returning to defend their hive. They came at Old Man Tucker from every direction, landing on his arms and face, stinging his hands that held the large flat piece of their hive.

They think that I am a bear, come to steal their honey! Ouch!” He reached around and flicked a bee off of the back of his neck. “They don’t know that I am really here to save them. Ouch! They are just too small to understand the whole story.”

Mr. Tucker turned the little silver smoker on the bees that were flying around him and they slowed down and landed.

In this editing example,I don’t really understand why he would do this to himself? If he wants to save the bees fine, but the self sacrifice seems unnecessary.

Now that the bees were calm he placed the large flat piece of hive into one of the rectangular frames and used wire from his spool to hold it in place. He held it up for the children to see.

This is called honey comb. It is made of beeswax that the worker bees form into sheets with all these little holes. If you look close you can see that each little hole has six sides. They are this light color when they haven’t been used yet.” Haven’t been used yet?? Used for what?

He slid the frame into the box and filled the hive with smoke from his silver smoker again before he reached back into the cement hive hole with his blue pry bar.

He pulled out another flat piece of honeycomb, but this one was a deep gold color.

Beautiful! Look at this one. This one is already half full of honey.”

He wired the deep gold honey comb into a wooden rectangular frame. He “wired” the honeycomb into the frame?? For this editing example… What does that mean??

He went in a third time with his blue pry bar.

Oh look!” Mr Tucker exclaimed. “This one is a dark brown because it is where the queen has laid her eggs.” ??? So why exactly is it dark brown then?? Because the eggs are in the honeycomb?

The children looked on as he wired the honey comb full of bee’s eggs into the rectangular wooden frame and then he waved the kids closer. Okaaaaayy….

Do you see that bee right there? The one that is longer than all of the rest. Isn’t she beautiful? She’s the queen.”

He tipped the box and leaned his head in close and whispered quietly, “We’ll get you to where you’ll be safe, then you can call your hive to join you.”

He set the box down and looked back at the nervous children. “She lays all of the eggs. The other bees will gather wherever she is. So when we bring her back to my yard the rest of the hive will find her and rebuild their hive around her.” – the kids should be nervous. This is not smart to deal with bees like this – unprotected. You might want to mention that some people are so allergic to bee stings… that just one or two stings could kill them.

Once all of the honey comb that he could recover was wired onto frames and placed gently into his box, Old Man Tucker smoked the bees one more time with his silver smoker and put a lid on the box.

Then he crunched back through the gravel, oil, and dust of the alley with the white pine box in his hands.

Let’s leave this lonely bee-loud alley and get these bees to where they’ll be safe,” said Mr. Tucker, very seriously.

Give us a brief description of what “wiring” is please for this editing example.

Mr. Tucker, with his box of bees, walked back down the road towards his house at the end of the block. Ashley, Maria, Marcus, Jose, and Alexander clattered and pedaled and pushed in zig zags and circles on their scooters and bikes, looking just like the buzzing bees that they were so excited to save. You still haven’t mentioned why they wanted to save those bees so badly.

There you are. No longer in anyone’s way.” Mr. Tucker said as he placed the white wooden box full of honeycomb frames on a hive stand. It sat just so between two of the plum trees in his back yard.

He opened the box to check on the queen one more time and as he was replacing the lid, a little black and yellow honey bee came crawling out of his white beard and took to the air.

It buzzed in a circle before climbing through the hole in the side of his new hive in the safety of Old Man Tucker’s back yard.

Then Mr. Tucker climbed a ladder and picked fresh golden and dark purple plums. Dark plums and golden plums don’t grow on the same tree.

He piled them into a small crate that he put on the bottom step of his back deck. And he opened a blue covered glass container that he kept by his back door so that Ashley, Maria, Marcus, Jose, and Alexander could each take a piece of honeycomb.

Peace comes dripping slow,” said Old Man Tucker with a smile. An odd phrase for a kids book. ???? Just as an editing example…

And the neighborhood crew sat on his back steps eating perfectly tart plums and sweet honeycomb watching the bees hunt for their queen.

They took turns drinking from the hose as the smell of the grass and the trees mixed with the plum-smell on their hands and faces. And the creek burbled. And the bees buzzed. It was a perfect summer day.

OK… there is a lot in this story I like. You have a better sense for detail and description than many new children’s book writers I see here on Fiverr. However, you’ve got to understand your reader’s position. You’re making too many assumptions about what they know and what they are thinking.

The fact is… a reader (of any age) doesn’t know and can’t know what a writer is thinking. They don’t know anything about the story or the characters except through the words the writer offers them. That’s it. It’s that simple yet, that incredibly difficult.

I would also say try to cut down your sentences and make them shorter. They tend to run on a bit. A great rule of thumb is to use as few words as possible to say anything. It makes a smoother and more engaging reading experience for your audience.

I will end by saying… it’s great that you want to teach kids about how important it is to keep bees alive. We are losing too many of them and it’s destroying our ecosystem. Tell them that. Weave it into the story without it sounding preachy. You’ve done a good job of avoiding preachiness so far.

A writer’s words build the framework for the reader’s imagination. You want to give them enough to see the scene as they read but not so much that it gets bogged down.

I’ll leave it there. I hope my words have value for you.  Thank you, Renee

Wishing you much imagination…

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Want another Sneak Peek Critique©?

Try this one on Chapter 1 of  ‘Invisible’ by James Patterson’s

Another Editing Example – Big Foot Little Feet

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