By Kimberly Newton Fusco
historical fiction with an infusion of wishes for intermediate readers
Beholding Bee is a book that keeps coming back into my thoughts. I keep wondering about her and the events in her life, as I try to figure out how things were in the 1930’s and 40’s. What would happen to a little girl if she were suddenly orphaned by parents who worked at a traveling carnival? Would she have been called a “freak” and put on display with the fat man and the bearded lady because of a birthmark?
Bee lives with Pauline in the back of the moving truck that is used to haul the carnival hotdog stand from place to place. Bee slices the onions for the hotdogs – nice and thin – when they awake in the morning. Once the stand is open she works with Pauline to fill the orders. She does this carefully keeping her hair over her “diamond” and turning a certain way so that people don’t see and stare or taunt. Pauline has taken care of Bee for seven years, but the snaky carnival owner is figuring different ways to make even more money and sends Pauline away. Bee is in charge of the hotdog cart on her own. She is comforted when a caramel brown stray shows up and she decides to keep the dog against the owners wishes. She has help from Bobby for a while. He’s runs the pig races, another carnival event, but when he leaves the carnival too, Bee knows she must find a place where she belongs.
Bee runs away with her dog and one of the sweet little pigs from the race. She runs until she finds a perfect house where she is welcomed by Mrs. Potter and Mrs. Swift. Sometimes there, sometimes not, they support Bee and help her discover the things that matter in the world. Surprisingly, happily, she is one of them. This book has wonderful characters, wonderful writing and a wonderful message.
“Everyone is always going to notice your birthmark, Bee. It’s like Ellen’s brace. You can’t help but notice. But it’s what people do after they notice that’s important. Do they treat you like a person with dignity? Or do they baby you and coddle you or make fun of you or worse?”
I think this books stays with you and makes you think and question, wonder and care. I hope you’ll read it and let us know what you think.