I love reading “The Bee Tree” by Patricia Polacco to my kids – with one small change.
In this story, a grandfather takes his bored-of-reading granddaughter on a “bee chase” to follow a bee to its tree. One zany neighbor after another joins them on their adventure and it makes for a fun and wacky story.
At the end, the grandfather pours some honey on a book and has her lick it. He tells her that she will find “such adventure as this” in the pages of books.
Here’s my change: whenever the story refers to books, I change it to “the Bible.” So, in my telling of the story, the little girl was bored of reading the Bible at the beginning and her grandfather, at the end, imparted to her the secret that she would find more adventure than a bee chase (and sweetness greater than honey) in the pages of the Bible.
After reading the story, I take a Bible, drizzle honey on it, and let the child lick it off as I whisper “The Word of the Lord is sweeter than honey; sweeter than honey from the comb.” (see Pslam 19 and Psalm 119)
My kids beg for this activity all the time, but I only do it occasionally to keep it special.
They know that I am changing the story, but that doesn’t bother them one bit. In fact, I explain to them that the origin of this story surely comes from a Jewish tradition of pouring honey on the Torah and letting a child lick it off on his first day of Hebrew school, so that he would remember that the word of the Lord is sweet – or as Psalm 34:8 puts it, “taste and see that the Lord is good.” This tradition dates back to the middle ages and is still practiced by some today (see: http://www.ritualwell.org/ritual/honey-ceremony).
The characters in the story are clearly Jewish and the author states that the story is based on an event in her mother’s childhood. In the story, the grandfather explains that this tradition has been passed on through the generations of the family. So, I think it is not too far of a stretch to guess that the origin of the story was this sweet Jewish tradition.
I hope you will enjoy this little tradition and that it will leave a lasting impression on your kids.