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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
Coustaud, the French bulldog, and Maxima, the magical grey horse, are best friends. They enjoy going on adventures together. When met by a Queen Bee, Coustaud is nervous, afraid he might be stung. But the Queen Bee is much too weak to even consider stinging Coustaud. And she’s distraught. Her home in the mangrove tree has been poisoned with pesticides and she can’t breathe. This is a serious situation. As the Queen Bee explains, “Bees are extremely important, you know; because of us, you have food on your plates.” That doesn’t mean we all eat bees, like silly Coustaud first interprets. But they do pollinate the food we grow and they collect nectar to make honey. The best friends go out on the water in a kayak and discover a tiger that is starving, a dragon that is caught in the growing network of tangled roots, and they learn about the wonderful constellations in the night sky. The most important thing they learn is that they have to protect their environment before it’s too late and even they won’t be able to breathe or eat.
Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan Al Nahyan’s picture book story, The Adventures of Maxima and Coustaud: The Tangled Tale, is a clever way to teach young readers about protecting our environment. Starting with the sad plight of the honeybees and extending the web of disaster to other forest animals, the author presents a grim tale of human-made destructive forces. Inserted in parts of the story are interesting tidbits about the different types of forests, how honeybees and the food chain are connected, and the constellations in the night sky. The author concludes with some interesting Did You Know tips at the end of the book. The story is written in simple language, with a dash of humor at Coustaud’s expense. Lots of words are shaped to emphasize the action within the story, like the sentence, “The water was becoming rough” which pictures the words flowing in a wave-like pattern. With beautiful, colorful illustrations, this is a fun story for young readers to help them realize that we all have to work together to make our planet safe and healthy for everyone, including the honeybees.