Mount Vernon author Jacqueline Briggs Martin has published another book. Her book, Begin with a Bee, written with collaborators Liza Ketchum and Phyllis Root is out now.

“We originally had been writing a manuscript for a book on turtles, but we were struggling to find a publisher for that story,” Martin said. “We decided to shift to writing a different book instead.”

Martin said the trio settled on writing a book about bees because Ketchum was part of an organization that cares about bees.

“From there, it was trying to find a native species of bee that we could feature,” Martin said.

Begin With a Bee authors

Liza Ketchum, Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Phyllis Root and illustrator Claudia McGehee collaborated on the book “Begin With A Bee,” which was recently published.

The trio settled on the rusty patched bumble bee, one of the first insects to be named to the endangered species list by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

Root, who lives in Minnesota, knows the bee is known as the state insect, and the rusty patched bumble bee is still seen in parts of Iowa and other states.

Martin enjoyed collaborating with others to create the book. Just having other people asking what she was doing or looking over writing to see how something sounds was great, she said.

Martin praised the illustrations by Iowa Citian Claudia McGehee.

“They are just beautiful,” Martin said.

And, of course, Martin learned a lot about bees. In fact, that knowledge on bees and how to help them took up the final two pages of the book.

“We’re trying to make this a book accessible to readers of all ages, and the items in the back on how to help bees is probably what took us the longest to write,” Martin said. “We’d get the page done and come across some more new and good information that we’d want to include, and have to finagle the information on those pages once again. We had to start picking and choosing what all to include on those pages.”

This spring, Martin, Root and Fletcher, along with illustrator Claudia McGehee have been hosting a variety of in-person or Zoom book chats about their novel.

Begin With a Bee

Begin With a Bee is a book written by local author Jacqueline Briggs Martin, with Liza Ketchum, Phyllis Root and illustrator Claudia McGehee.

“We did a Zoom book reading in Prairie Lights in Iowa City and one at Red Balloon Bookshop in Minnesota,” Martin said. “Claudia and I have been able to do in-person book readings at The Perfect Blend in Mount Vernon, Next Page Books in Cedar Rapids and Sidekick Coffee and Books in Iowa City.”

Martin commended book stores for offering Zoom options for authors to safely meet with fans of the work.

“I’m glad to be able to do some of these online events, as it gives me a chance to attend book readings to promote our book I might not have traveled to be a part of,” Martin said. “I hope that’s something book stores keep moving forward with after the pandemic as well.”

Martin said the trio of writers are casting about for their next idea of a story, but haven’t landed on one just yet.

You can purchase “Begin With a Bee” at Perfect Blend in Mount Vernon, Next Page Books in Cedar Rapids or Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City.

Martin grew up in Maine with three brothers, two sisters, her parents and a great-great uncle.

Martin moved to Iowa with her husband Rich, who was a professor at Cornell College for a number of years. Her book, Snowflake Bentley, won the Caldecott Award for best illustrations by Mary Azarian. She has published a number of books including Bim, Bam, Bop … and Oona, Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix and Creekfinding.

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