Elizabeth Varadan | The Children’s Book Review | September 21, 2013
Age Range: 9 – 12 years
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (February 12, 2013)
What to Expect: Homelessness, carnivals, magic, dealing with differences.
This should be a sad tale but instead is up-lifting. Much of that is due to the protagonist’s wry voice: Twelve-year-old Bee (short for Beatrice) is an orphan and works for a traveling carnival, living in the back of a truck with nineteen-year-old Pauline. Pauline, her caretaker by default, tells Bee the birthmark on her forehead was made by an angel’s kiss. The manager, Ellis, says he’ll put Bee in the freak show when she’s older. Customers gawk at Bee. After some boys threaten her, Bobby, who runs the pig races and is sweet on Pauline, teaches Bee how to run fast so she’ll always be safe.
Bee’s world turns upside down when Ellis splits the carnival into two locations and Pauline goes with Arthur to New Jersey. Bee feels abandoned. She runs away, taking Peabody, a stray mutt who has adopted her, and cute Cordelia, one of Bobby’s pigs. When this weary trio finally comes to a cosy house on a road far away from the carnival, a mysterious woman and her companion are waiting on the porch. Then they disappear. And so begins Bee’s new life in the kind of house Bee and Pauline had always wanted, shared now with a mutt, a pig, and two elderly ladies no one else can see.
Bee faces new challenges, of course, but her quaint observations had me smiling on every page. As the story progresses, Bee learns the truth of that old adage about “the eye of the beholder”. And even though magic plays a charming role in this book, Bee develops the discipline and wisdom to make use of her luck. She confronts bullies, defends other students with handicaps, and she even rescues Pauline from an unforeseen plight.
“Generally it is not a good idea to fret too long over things like ladies who disappear, or ladies who appear, for that matter, or you will lose your nerve. I try to remember how the lady in the orange flappy hat always showed up when I was having a very bad day and she helped make things better. Maybe this is one of those days.”
This book will appeal to readers in middle grades and middle school who like quirky characters, stories about overcoming hardship, ghosts, and stories set in the WWII era.
Add this book to your collection: Beholding Bee
Beholding Bee was reviewed by Elizabeth Varadan.