The Daring Escape of Beatrice and Peabody by Kimblerly Newton Fusco
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|The Daring Escape of Beatrice and Peabody by Kimblerly Newton Fusco|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Gina Garnett|
|Summary: One girl, her dog and her pig escape the travelling fair that has been their world and build a better life in greener pastures in this slightly timid but heartwarming coming of age story.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 372||Date: June 2013|
|Publisher: Faber and Faber|
|External links: Author's website|
Now, don’t get me wrong, this book is good. It really is. The characters and the plot are all great, it all unfolds nicely, there are some outstanding turns of phrase and the book really prods at your emotions in all the right way. It’s just, as a whole, the book is kind of like a marshmallow cupcake. Really cute and completely pleasant but somehow just not very filling.
This is the story of Beatrice (Bee) Hockenberry, the girl with a diamond on her cheek. Orphaned at a young age, Bee lives in the hauling truck of a travelling fair with Pauline who runs the hotdog stand. Daily, she suffers staring, ridicule and worse torments because of the prominent birthmark on her cheek. The story really starts when first Pauline and then Bobby the pig-man, the only people who have ever been kind to her, leave the fair. With no one left to protect her from the show owner who wants to put her in the freakshow booth, she takes her dog Peabody (as much of a stray as she) and Cordelia, the runt from the piglet race and runs away. Taken in by two mysterious old ladies, Bee starts school and embarks on a whole new life which has troubles of its own.
Having aimed the book at girls around the same ages as Bee (she starts the book at the age of eleven and we finish on her thirteenth birthday) Kimberly Fusco has hit a resounding bullseye. What she’s done is written a friend for every pre-teen girl who’s ever been picked on. Bee is easy to sympathise for and easy to empathise with (all the while setting shining examples of independence, optimism and self-sufficiency). The fact that Bee struggles through the attitudes of WWII America doesn’t detract in the slightest from how relatable she is to that age group. Nor has Fusco or made the mistake of making her just too perfect. She has her selfish moments and she makes some questionable choices throughout her adventures (standing up to bullies is one thing, for example, spitting at them in the school hall, however, is ill advised).
The story, too, is beguiling as it draws you through, lulling you with enough escapism to take the edge off of the troubles in the world. It lets a young audience feel wiser than Bee but as it’s all in present tense, we solve the mysteries with her and learn with her too. The ending, however, is so abrupt that I was halfway through the dedications before I realised I’d run out of story. While it fits with the pattern of the other chapters, with nothing to follow it, it leaves you feeling a bit off balance and, well, cheated.
The ending, I think, contributes to the slight cupcakeyness (to coin a phrase) mentioned above. The book is fairly slow to get going and it feels like we’ve just picked up some good speed when the end of the story trips us up. While Bee and, in fact, all of the mostly female cast exhibit huge strength of character and a Rosy Riveter strength of purpose, as a whole, I still wanted to book to grow a more impacting edge, although I’d be willing to accept this as my personality rather than the book’s.
Overall, though, this is a brilliant book for both girls slowly but surely starting to grow up and for the tiny part of the rest of us that never really did.
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You can read more book reviews or buy The Daring Escape of Beatrice and Peabody by Kimblerly Newton Fusco at Amazon.com.
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