Published February 2013 by Listening Library|Run Time: 8 hours, 5 minutes
Where I Got It: Audible.com
Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fiction
Bee is an orphan who lives with a carnival and sleeps in the back of a tractor trailer. Every day she endures taunts for the birthmark on her face—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 a scruffy dog shows up, as unwanted as she, and Bee realizes that she must find a home for them both. She runs off to a house with gingerbread trim that reminds her of frosting. There 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 They clothe her, though their clothes are strangely out of date.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, strangely, 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.
This tender novel beautifully captures the pain of isolation, the healing power of community, and the strength of the human spirit.
What I Thought:
I have mixed feelings about Beholding Bee. Liked, really mixed feelings.
So, I liked that Bee found people who care about her after leaving the carnival she worked at, and how much she learned about herself over the course of the book. One interesting thing is that the book takes place in the U.S. during World War 2, and when she starts going to school for the first time in her life, she’s placed in a class that would be considered special ed today. That was actually really interesting because you see how cruel kids are to them because they’re different, and that they have several teachers who are there just to be there, and don’t seem to care about them. Until they get the one teacher who believes they should be able to be around the other students (at least during recess) because it’s not fair to keep them separated from the other kids. This doesn’t go over well with the principal, who’s basically doing it so they won’t get bullied.
I found that part so interesting because for some reason, I wasn’t expecting kids back then to be so cruel, but at was actually really important to see why they shouldn’t be separated from the rest of the school- at least in terms of recess. And I liked Bee learned how to stand up for herself, even if I didn’t like she did it. It made sense and I get why Bee acted the way she did, but I couldn’t help but think less of Bee after that. (Not a lot, but just enough that I was a little put off by it).
One of the biggest reasons why I didn’t like Beholding Bee was the mysterious women who take her in. I felt like it really took away from the rest of the book, because I wasn’t expecting 2 women that only Bee can see. I just found it to be annoying, and I think I would have appreciated/liked their role in things if they weren’t so…ghostly. It really did take me out of the story, and I wish their own history, especially in relation to Bee, were explored more.
I also expected Bee to be a little bit older. It’s hard to believe an 11-year-old could take care of herself , with the help of her two “aunts,” and slightly more unbelievable that a young woman in her earlier twenties would be willing to take care of Bee, even if she had been doing since she was in her teens when she took Bee in. Then again, I have no clue how these things worked in the 1940’s, so it could be related to that.
Let’s Rate It:
I did like how Bee learned to stand up for herself, and to not hide herself away because of her birthmark. And I liked how she realized that people will care about her if she let them. However, I felt like Bee seemed a little too young at times (understandable, given how she grew up) and her aunts really took me out of the story. Beholding Bee gets 2 stars.