10 June 2013

Review: Beholding Bee by Kimberly Newton Fusco

In the summer after Pearl Harbor, twelve-year-old Bee notices changes in the traveling show and carnival that has been her home for all her life. When her carny parents died in a car accident eight years earlier, Bee was taken in by then-teenager Pauline, who taught the girl to read, do math, and help run the hot-dog cart.

Despite the hardships, Bee could have been happy, but she was born with a diamond-shaped birthmark that covers half her face. Ellis, the show's owner, has been waiting for an excuse to put Bee in a "look-see booth," knowing people would pay good money for chance to stare at her face. Only Pauline's fierce protection has kept Bee out of the orphanage and away from Ellis's control. What will Bee do when Ellis finds a way to separate the pair, leaving Bee all on her own?

Kimberly Newton Fusco's Beholding Bee is a magical story about self-acceptance, self-reliance, and finding bravery geared to a young middle grade audience. Although the story contains a few light paranormal elements (Bee is helped by an elderly woman whom only she can see), it is grounded in reality. Young readers will love Bee, who is hardened to the life of the carnival but who is still scared and shy when people want to catch a glimpse of her face.

Although older readers will find some parts of the plot to be a little too neat, young girls will love learning how Bee finds a way to fulfill her dreams. With the help and prodding of the mysterious old woman and by remembering the lessons she learned from the carnival workers who cared for her, Bee overcomes the worst of her troubles and gains a new sense of herself along the way.

Filled with interesting period details and facts about traveling carnivals, Beholding Bee would make an excellent book club pick. Topics for discussion include the differences between schools in the 1940s and today, victory gardens, life in a carnival, family, friendships, handicaps, cooking, and wartime rationing.

I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Listening Library; 8 hr, 5 min) read by Ariadne Meyers. This was my first experience with Meyers, who did an amazing job portraying the young Bee. Her expressive reading and fantastic characterizations greatly increased my enjoyment of the story. I loved how she made me feel the entire range of Bee's emotions, from her pain and hurt when people stared at her to the love she feels for Pauline. In fact, I'm not sure I would have liked the book as much in print.

This post will be linked to Kid Konnection, hosted by Julie at Booking Mama.

Random House / Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780375868368
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).


Nise' 6/10/13, 8:20 AM  

I enjoyed this book too! It was a quick read.

Daryl 6/10/13, 9:14 AM  

sounds like a winner, thanks

Julie P. 6/10/13, 10:01 AM  

I liked this one and agreed with you that it would be a cute mother/daughter book club selection.

bermudaonion 6/10/13, 5:06 PM  

I listened to this one as well and really enjoyed it even though magical realism isn't usually my thing.

Anonymous,  6/10/13, 6:48 PM  

I'm putting this on my to-read list - great review!

Jennifer 6/12/13, 9:50 PM  

I'll be putting this on my TBR list. I'm very interested in traveling carnivals and this time period so even if the book is aimed at younger readers, I'm sure I'd still enjoy the period details and the topics that the book covers. Great review!

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