Beholding Bee

Kimberly Newton Fusco hits all the right notes with this delightful new coming-of-age story set in a somewhat magical World War II.

BEHOLDING BEE, by Kimberly Newton Fusco Knopf, 336 pp.

I almost gave up on Beholding Bee.

Yes, I'd heard the early buzz. Readers whose taste mimicked mine loved it.  I was attracted to the appealing cover art, the heft of the book, the fresh voice of the narrator. And it began with a surprising concept. After the death of her parents when she was quite young, 12-year-old Bee is in the care of her friend Pauline. Together, they work at a traveling carnival. Although Bee's birthmark causes her to constantly cover her face and look away, Pauline offers encouragement, telling her it is a diamond. Such a unique setting! So many oddball, intriguing characters, and Bee certainly seemed like a girl to root for.

Then I bogged down waiting for something to happen. I was mad at Pauline, Bee's friend and caretaker. Could she really abandon our heroine for a creepy love interest? I almost put the novel aside.  Am I ever glad I didn't.

Part magic, part coming-of-age in a too-real world, the story twists and turns into uncharted territory. While it reminded me a bit of Ann M. Martin's "A Corner of the Universe," the elderly aunts, who may or may not be figments of Bee's imagination, took the story in a delightful new direction.

There's a lot of wisdom in "Beholding Bee." When Bee decides to run away, she sees her favorite little pig Cordelia's "sweet pig face poking through the fence" at the carnival, and her heart throbs. "Sometimes you can only take so many goodbyes in life," Bee observes as she sets Cordelia free. The pig, the girl, and her funny-looking dog take off to an unknown destination, the animals taking the lead. Bee follows without much enthusiasm. After all, it's "hard to get excited about running when you cannot see the finish line."

Finish line? A pet pig and a rescued dog? Those aunts? I couldn't put the book down. Bee had stolen my heart. I worried she'd never find a home. When she did and she slept in her first real bed, I loved her bravery and her friendships. The disappearing aunts were such a surprising and funny touch. The strange, outdated clothes, the candles, and the neighbors turn the novel into a mystery. Worry about food rationing and soldiers fighting in World War II move it soundly into the realm of historical fiction.

Historical, mysterious, fantasy? In the end, none of this will matter to young readers. All they need to know is that Kimberly Newton Fusco's newest book is a really terrific, hopeful story. Yes, the year is young, but this could be my favorite middle-grade novel of 2013.

Augusta Scattergood regularly reviews children's books for the Monitor.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Beholding Bee
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today