Books | Beholding Bee
‘Bee’ is an orphan who lives with a traveling carnival. Every day she endures taunts for the birthmark on her cheek – 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 scruffy dog Peabody shows up, as unwanted as she, and Bee realizes that she must find a home for them both.
Together they run away to a house with gingerbread trim where 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 They clothe her, though their clothes are strangely out of date.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 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. With an arrestingly original voice, this book stays with you long after reading. Anyone who has ever felt lonely will find a friend in Bee.
Children's Top Pick, February 2013 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.
- BookPage, February 2013
“With an arrestingly original voice, this book stays with you long after reading. Anyone who has ever felt lonely will find a friend in Bee.”
- Faber and Faber, London
“Bee goes to great pains to hide her facial birthmark from the world. And no wonder: people are overly curious or just outright mean. Take the menacing Ellis, who uses the orphaned child in his traveling carnival as a potential freak-show attraction. Bee, meanwhile, helps run the show’s hot-dog stand and lives in a hauling truck. Just as the sheer bleakness of Bee’s situation threatens to overwhelm the plot, allies emerge among the traveling crew to help her find strength. The story then takes a fanciful turn as two feisty ancestors, whom no one else can see, empower Bee and lead her to a real home. Fusco’s unique WWII-era coming-of-age tale delicately balances the cruel challenges flung at Bee with the resilience and fight she gradually develops. Whether it be everyday bullies, a school system that fails her, or abandonment and loss, Bee’s supporters stand with her, one challenge at a time. A unique feel-good story about an appealing heroine, her rallying angels, and the search for love and home.”
BEHOLDING BEE is “narrated in the unique voice of a spunky and endearing heroine. The writing is often lyrical, chapters are short, and details of the time period add interest and texture. Fans of Kate DiCamillo, Jennifer Holm, and Polly Horvath will find this an enjoyable and engrossing read.”
- School Library Journal
BEHOLDING BEE gives “readers a modern twist on fairy godmothers: strong, supportive women who don't need to provide a Prince Charming to make dreams come true.”
- The Horn Book
“A distinct, heartfelt voice…”
“Fusco has a strong handle on her WWII-era setting, and she delicately describes the stress of being viewed as different.”
- Publishers Weekly