Beholding Bee by Kimberly Newton Fusco
Published: February 12th 2013 by Listening Library (Audio)
Format/Source: Audio CDs borrowed from Cover2CoverBlog
Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fiction/Paranormal
Bee is an orphan who lives with a carnival and sleeps in the back of a tractor trailer. Every day she endures taunts for the birthmark on her face—though her beloved Pauline, the only person who has ever cared for her, tells her it is a precious diamond. When Pauline is sent to work for another carnival, Bee is lost.
Then a scruffy dog shows up, as unwanted as she, and Bee realizes that she must find a home for them both. She runs off to a house with gingerbread trim that reminds her of frosting. There two mysterious women, Mrs. Swift and Mrs. Potter, take her in. They clothe her, though their clothes are strangely out of date. They feed her, though there is nothing in their house to eat. They help her go to school, though they won’t enter the building themselves. And, strangely, only Bee seems able to see them.
Whoever these women are, they matter. They matter to Bee. And they are helping Bee realize that she, too, matters to the world–if only she will let herself be a part of it.
This tender novel beautifully captures the pain of isolation, the healing power of community, and the strength of the human spirit.
Bee is an orphan working at a traveling carnival, making hot dogs during World War II. Pauline takes care of her and a pig named Cordelia is her best friend. She doesn’t have any peers as friends because of the nature of the carnival, but primarily because of a large birthmark, or ‘diamond’ that graces her cheek. She gets a lot of negative attention because of her diamond that affects her self-confidence. When Pauline leaves for the carnival’s new location, Bee is left trying to figure out what her future should hold. But a strange lady with an orange floppy hat might be able to help her…
What struck me the most about this book was the voice. In many middle grade and young adult books, I have found that the characters don’t necessarily act their age. Usually, they are a extraordinarily intelligent or brave, acting with traits usually seen in people who are more mature if at all. But in Beholding Bee, there was no confusion as to how old Bee was. She was definitely 12 years old. She would sigh and roll her eyes as she tried to get her way. While behaviors like that in real life would be frustrating, it was actually refreshing to not be confused about how old the child narrator was.
I listened to the audio CDs for this story so unfortunately I think I fell plague to listening fatigue. The longer a story is to listen to, the more likely I am to become bored, lose attention, or interest in the story. There were times when I would not listen to the story for a week and then be confused as to where I was in the story. I don’t think that this is the fault of the story, but more in the medium and in the consumer (me). It might be something worthwhile to consider if actual children are listening to the story; it could border on too long for that medium.
Bee’s time at the carnival definitely made me crave hot dogs. The paranormal elements that came later were definitely cute and stood in almost stark contrast to the harsh reality of being an orphan with a mark that makes others stare. It was a heartwarming story that would be a perfect read for someone the same age as Bee and their guardians.
My rating: 3/5