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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 They clothe her, though their clothes are strangely out of date.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.
- ISBN-13: 9780375868368
- ISBN-10: 0375868364
- Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
- Publish Date: February 2013
- Page Count: 329
- Reading Level: Ages 9-12
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-12-17
- Reviewer: Staff
Eleven-year-old Bee is sensitive about the prominent diamond-shaped birthmark on her face, which she hides with her hair. Ever since her parents’ death, Bee been raised at a traveling carnival, working the hot dog stand with a young woman named Pauline (between chopping onions and cruel comments from fairgoers about her face, Bee spends much of the book’s early chapters sobbing). When Bee’s future with Pauline is jeopardized, Bee runs away (“I do not have much of a plan except we need a home that will take a girl with a diamond on her face, a funny-looking dog... and a baby pig”). Two strange women, Mrs. Swift and Mrs. Potter, take her in, and Bee’s life improves dramatically, but her “aunts” barely eat, and no one else can see them. Fusco (The Wonder of Charlie Anne) has a strong handle on her WWII-era setting, and she delicately describes the stress of being viewed as different. But while Bee has suffered mightily, the magic- and coincidence-driven events of the second half result in an ending that’s too good to be true. Ages 8–12. (Feb.)
Facing the world anew
We all know that there is magic in the world—and it is not the spells-and-wands kind of magic you find in most fantasy books. Real magic is created by love and conjured up by need. In Kimberly Newton Fusco’s enthralling Beholding Bee, there is an abundance of real magic. And it’s a good thing, because Bee needs all the help the world can give her.
Orphaned at the age of 4 by carnival folk parents, Bee is raised by a teenager, Pauline, who helps her run the hot dog stand. The carnival’s owner decided to keep Bee because he hopes to use her as a “freak show” attraction when she gets older.
In the 1940s when this story takes place, being born with a large diamond-shaped birthmark on your face can make you an object of fear, ridicule and fascination. Bee spends most of the early parts of this story trying to keep her hair pulled down over one side of her face. Only Pauline and a strange old lady in a floppy hat—a lady only Bee can see—give her comfort. When Pauline leaves to work at another carnival, Bee is on her own and more scared than ever. With a stray dog and a piglet as her companions, Bee finds the strength to run away to the nearest town, and, miraculously, finds the house where the old lady lives.
Here the magic truly begins as Bee makes a home for herself. She follows the guidance of the ghostly lady and another “aunt” as she learns to cook and shop and go to school. As all the pieces come apart and then come together again, Bee finds her voice and the strength of self to show the world who she really is. Fusco’s lyrical prose enhances the magic of the story as we are drawn into Bee’s unconventional world and her touching transformation.