A Bumblebee Sweater.


32 pages
ISBN 978-1-55455-028-9
DDC jC813'.54




Illustrations by Kim LaFave
Reviewed by Aileen Wortley


We have all known children who cannot be parted from a favourite item of clothing and need to wear it every day. With Nellie, it was the yellow and black striped sweater that her grandmother made for her when she was to appear as a bumblebee in the spring concert. Grandma’s vision is a bit poor, so the sweater is huge, but Nellie loves it and pronounces it “BEE-YEW-TIFUL.” Long before the concert takes place she wears it everywhere. She wears it to show her friends and spills lunch on it. She wears it because it’s cold and rainy but then slips on the baseball field. She wears it to Cousin Stephanie’s birthday party but gets party food on it. She wears it to a duck farm and gets duck doo on it. Each time she makes a mess of her sweater her mother washes it, until it shrinks so much Nellie cannot wear it for the concert. Which ultimately doesn’t matter too much as Nellie is asked to play a flower instead of a bumblebee! Nellie dresses Sparky, her dog, in the sweater instead. The story ends on a further humorous note when Grandma receives a picture of Nellie, Sparky, and friends from the concert. She sees Sparky wearing the sweater and mistakes Sparky for Nellie, worrying about how small she is compared with her friends.


Betty Waterton is one of Canada’s classic authors for children, having written 18 picture books and novels. In A Bumblebee Sweater she has created characters that children will love, such as the delightfully vague but loving grandmother, the exuberant Nellie with her enthusiasm for life, and the ever supportive mother who washes that sweater so many times. This will be a story that children will want to hear repeatedly and the adult reader will enjoy as much as the child.


Illustrator Kim LaFave has won many major awards for his work, including the Governor General’s Award, and has illustrated many cherished books for children. The vitality of the illustrations reflects Nellie’s energy and eagerness and brings out the humour of the situation in soft pastel watercolours. There are many details to chuckle over that add to and complement the story, such as Nellie’s unruly hair, Sparky’s obvious rapt interest in the situation, and the mother’s look of grim desperation as she washes that sweater yet again.


Children aged three to seven will love this humorous picture book, which is sure to be a popular item for all libraries and would make a wonderful addition to a child’s own bookshelf. Highly recommended.


Waterton, Betty., “A Bumblebee Sweater.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 22, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/29068.