Thursday, February 21, 2013
'Beholding Bee' is local author's third young adult novel
By ARLINE A. FLEMING, Valley Breeze & Observer Correspondent
FOSTER - Her public voice is soft and sweet, a little shy, somewhat poetic.
But on the written page, the voices created by Foster resident Kimberly Newton Fusco shout out with resiliency and tenaciousness, strong little literary characters, young but memorable.
There's nothing soft about these girls, especially the one who takes flight in Fusco's latest novel for young people, "Beholding Bee," which will be launched on Saturday, Feb. 16, at Foster's Tyler Free Library, 81A Moosup Valley Rd. at 1:30 p.m.
"It's my favorite library in the whole world," explained the long-time town resident and award-winning writer who launched her previous books, "Tending to Grace" and "The Wonder of Charlie Anne," there, a place she often brought her own children for story hours.
A mother of four children ages 15 to 25, Fusco and her husband, Steven, came to the area after their oldest son was born, she said, finding "a warm and generous community" in Foster, and a place not far from the Worcester Telegram & Gazette where she was an award-winning reporter and editor. After more than 15 years of writing on deadlines, and with the family increasing in number, she decided to give herself a chance at writing from home.
A devoted reader, she returned to her book roots, producing a successful first novel in "Tending to Grace," published by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, which earned her awards and a place in the publishing world. Her second, "The Wonder of Charlie Anne," continued with that same type of success, and her third has been released this week with early recognition, too. It will also be published by Faber and Faber, London, "making it an international book," she notes.
While the accolades are abundant, Fusco is quick to point out that "Beholding Bee" was many years in the making, and the inspiration actually goes back to her early days as a reporter when she covered a traveling carnival in Bristol. The idea simmered, as did the planning, writing and publishing tasks, which added up to four years.
"I'm really precise and I take a lot of time with every single word," she explained.
A personal writing habit sometimes includes writing poetry about the character's feelings and "then I rewrite it into prose. I love poetry and that helps me get into the character. I get so deeply into their emotions."
Fusco not only allows poetry to transmit her into the character, but she says she also sets up her computer margins so that the page mimics a newspaper column as she creates. "It's how I write."
She also makes a habit of finding a photo that resembles in her mind the character she is creating. She produces one of what Bee might have looked like if she stepped off the pages of the book.
Bee is an orphan. The time period is 1942. And she lives in the back of a tractor trailer with Pauline, her unofficial guardian. Bee also has a birthmark on her face that she spends a good amount of time attempting to hide. When Pauline leaves to work for another carnival, Bee runs away to create a new life - one that turns out to be quite imaginative and includes women in history.
BookPage, a monthly book review distributed to some 450,000 readers, describes Fusco's writing in "Beholding Bee" as being "lyrical prose (which) enhances the magic of the story as we are drawn into Bee's unconventional world and her touching transformation."
"With an arrestingly original voice, this book stays with you long after reading. Anyone who has ever felt lonely will find a friend in Bee," notes Faber and Faber, London.
While Bee is a fighter, so is the girl in Fusco's first novel, "Tending to Grace," where young Cornelia tends to remain quiet rather than announce her stuttering to all the world. She has something of Fusco in her. As a child, Fusco was "a young person who stuttered, and writing gave me a chance to express myself.
"I am drawn to characters like Cornelia who put on bigger boots and keep going," Fusco writes on her website, www.kimberlynewtonfusco.com .
Kristen M. Chin, director of the Libraries of Foster, describes Fusco as being "generous with her time and knowledge." Recalling an earlier book launch at the local library, Chin said it was "standing-room only.
"In addition to being Foster's most celebrated author, she is also much loved and respected by everyone who knows her, and she is widely known."
Fusco earned her master's degree in journalism from Columbia University, New York, and her bachelor's degree from Roger Williams University, Bristol. While at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, she won a second prize in the 1992 National Awards for Education Reporting, and in 1988, a first prize for investigative reporting for her series "Poverty and Education in Worcester."
Living in Foster, notes Fusco, inspires her to write. The sounds of nearby animals and the plentiful woods for walking help clear her head to think. From the family's "new" old house, Fusco creates literary people comfortable around animals, which is no surprise given the sheep that roam her own front yard and her childhood in Upton, Mass., where Fusco said the family kept chickens and a pig. She was also able to walk to her own great-grandmother's house most days for a visit.
"We were very close," she recalled of Dorcas Brewster Newton, and Fusco dedicated "Beholding Bee" to her.
The little girl who spent days with her great-grandmother has grown up to become a celebrated writer, which also means she must make public appearances, give talks, and lectures.
"That's something I really grew into. I enjoy it now. I really love talking to kids," she said.
Fusco said she is almost finished with the first draft of another book, one which includes a strong friendship with a boy. Her sons have asked her about creating boy characters, and she smiles, saying, "It's not easy to jump the fence."
Though she has devoted four years to the development of "Beholding Bee," Fusco says that while it is a big adjustment being that patient in seeing the outcome, "I love this more than anything I've ever done. It really feels like a dream come true.
"I'm very determined. I've always been tenacious. That part of me is in all my characters, too."
So what does she hope "Beholding Bee" does for the readers who step into its magical world? "I hope they get it. I hope they see how much I love language. It's just so joyful to write," she said.
And one more "hope" from this local author about her books, which are on school reading lists nationwide:
"I hope that they make a difference in a child's life somewhere."
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
"When you think about it, though, isn't it better to believe in a kiss so soft you cannot hear it or see who is giving it to you? You are special when you think like this" - Bee
"I simply do not know where to begin. I am warning you now this is going to be more of a love letter than a review. Beholding Bee was one of the most beautiful, most magical books I have ever read!
Kimberly Newton Fusco's writing was superb. Utterly flawless. Her lyrical flow made the words bounce off the page, and play a stunning and vibrant film in my mind. I have never had a book come to life quite like this. The author's world building was crafted so beautifully. I love how she separated the book into 3 parts. It really broke down Bee's transformation perfectly.
The characters, oh gosh, those characters! Bee is the main character and what a character she is. She is so strong and mature at 12 years old. She is so precious, I absolutely fell in love with her. Bee will forever be in my heart. There were qualities of Bee that I saw in myself, and there are certain experiences we share; It was a pleasure to be able to relate with her. Don't think that Bee is the only spirited character, oh no! The author penned a vivacious secondary cast. Everyone has their spot and plays their part. Lots of stories are told and by the end, your heart will be swelling!
This book tackles it all; World War II, bullying, family matters and self discovery. Bee's world will unfold right in front of your very eyes. I am so happy I had the pleasure of reading this novel.
Magical, enchanting, and simply wonderful."
Sunday, February 10, 2013
"Historical fiction with a beguiling touch of fantasy, Beholding Bee takes place in New England in 1942. The traveling carnival is the only life eleven-year-old Bee (short for Beatrice) has ever known. Her parents were circus people who died in a truck accident when she was four. Ever since then, she’s been looked after by Pauline, who loves her, teaches her to read, and tries to protect her. They sell hotdogs and popcorn at the carnival. But the owner thinks Bee is old enough to start earning her keep by sitting in the look-see booth, where people would pay good money to gawk at the diamond-shape birthmark covering nearly half of her face.
Then Pauline is forced to go to Poughkeepsie and help set up a permanent carnival, and Bee’s only other friend, Bobby, leaves the traveling show to work in a factory building bomber engines. Bee takes her scruffy stray dog, Peabody, and Bobby’s runt of a pig, Cordelia, and runs away.
But Bee’s never completely alone, because the lady in the floppy orange hat, a lady only Bee can see, is always there when Bee needs her the most. When Bee finds the lady with the orange hat on the porch of a wonderful old house, she knows she’s home. Will a normal life, with school and friends, be possible for Bee now? Or will her diamond-shaped birthmark, or questions about her guardians, prevent her from finding happiness?
A luminous novel about standing up for yourself, finding your inner strength, and discovering the gems within. Bee’s a feisty character, who stomps around in worn-out work boots and overalls, but she’s also terribly vulnerable, and often holds her long hair tight over her face. Reading this, I got inside Bee’s head completely. This is one of those quiet books I’m so fond of (like the author’s previous novels, Tending to Grace and The Wonder of Charlie Anne), although there’s plenty of conflict for young Bee. Short chapters (some only a page or two) keep the pace moving along briskly, and the first-person present-tense narration gives the story immediacy.
The prose is so beautiful it’s poetic, making the novel highly quotable. Confronting two bullies who want to stare at her birthmark, Bee says they “stand grinning, as close to us as dug graves.” After her first day of school, where Bee endures humiliation, she comes home and cries in bed. “…whatever grit I had inside me is gone. I am soft as petals.” And when she learns more about her real family, and especially about all the women who came before her, she says, “I feel their bones gathering within me, knitting their strength to my insides.”