Book Review

Bumbling Bea – Deborah Baldwin

Book Title: Bumbling Bea


Author: Deborah Baldwin

Goodreads Link: Click here


Star Rating: gold stargold stargold star empty starempty star – Liked it.

Disclaimer: I received this book free from the author.

Beatrice is a little bit of a brat.  She’s smart, clever and driven. However, she lets her ambition turn her into this alter-ego she calls Bumbling Bea. Bea does a little more than bumble though, she is a real handful. Here is the synopsis…

Beatrice thinks she has no talent, but that doesn’t stop her from auditioning for the annual middle school play.  Easy!  Except Michiko, a new girl from Japan, shows up and ruins everything. So begins Beatrice’s humorous and diabolical plan to scare away Michiko.  But Michiko has goals of her own with no plans to leave soon.  Then there’s that “other” girl, Bumbling Bea, who is such a blabbermouth.  What’s a girl to do?  Plenty.

Maybe I’m not the right person to read this book. I can’t abide a bully. I’m  a parent, and I have very strong feelings about how children should treat one another.  I know that when kids are growing up, they start acting out, learning how to act with one another, especially in the middle school years. However, I also think that it is the responsibility of a parent to control their child when they are acting like a bully.  Bea is a bully.  She is a manipulative little kid, who uses sarcasm to hurt the new girl, Michiko, because she feels slighted.

I found Bea distasteful. In particular, because of the way she expressed her thoughts about Michiko’s race.  Some of the more egregious statements…

When Michiko is late to rehearsal Bea says “We take this seriously here. I don’t know about what you do in Japan, but…” Keep in mind. This is one little girl speaking to a peer.  That condescension would be unacceptable from an adult talking to a kid, much less from one kid speaking with another. Cringe-worthy behavior.

“Sheesh! I bet she eats a hamburger and French fries with chopsticks!” Sounds like something a kid would say, however, she is never corrected for saying it. Except by another kid who also laughed about it. It is accepted.

“She looked like one of those beautiful Japanese dolls..”  A common stereotype for Asian women.

“Well, I think she was yelling at her. She was speaking Japanese and it always sounds angry.” Does it? Really?

I’m not comfortable with the derision Bea shows for Japanese people. I have to admit that the cover artwork may not have helped. While the characters are both in cartoon style, Michiko is portrayed more as a caricature of an Asian child. Not cool. Later in the book, Beatrice gains a little more control over herself and starts to see things from Michiko’s perspective. She comes to appreciate, to a certain degree, how Michiko’s culture has informed her choices. The two girls kinda sorta become friends. I was happy to see that happen. Beatrice’s mother is a gentle woman who corrects her daughter at arms length, with hints and suggestions, and frequently through other people. I can’t fault her since the result was good, but how well would that work in real life, and how miserable did Michiko have to get before someone would get off their behinds and directly correct Bea. Someone needed to say that’s enough.

This is a book about the bad decisions kids can make when they are trying to find their place in the world. Our emotions can feel out of control at that age. I get it. When we are young, we do and say things that simply aren’t right.

Bea is the new girl on the literary block. After all, Harriet the Spy, learned these lessons long ago.  As did the girls in Flubber and so many other great middle school books. Those girls gave out licks, then had to take them, and learned valuable lessons in the taking. Bea does as well. Ultimately, the question is, would I allow my daughter to read this book?  Perhaps.  But we would also have a conversation about how to talk with and about people from other cultures, and why bullying, manipulation and mean girl behavior is unacceptable.

As a funny story about kids, it’s somewhat successful. Like I said, maybe I’m just not the right person for this book. I acknowledge I may have taken it far too seriously. Bumbling me. That’s it. I get a time out!


2 thoughts on “Bumbling Bea – Deborah Baldwin

  1. I sometimes have issues with bullies in books if the issue is not resolved by the end. Making light of it helps kids, but if there is no resolution, what have they learned.

  2. Crystal, you did miss the point entirely. I’m sorry it wasn’t clear to you. That is on me, not you. There is a definite positive resolution and one of respect for Michiko. Beatrice changes gradually throughout the book. Her frustration toward Michiko is a projection of the changes in her own life beginning with Beatrice’s father separating from Beatrice’s mother. She even mentions that she doesn’t know where her negative feelings are coming from so that indicates she is aware of her behavior. Beatrice does many positive things in regards to Michiko as the story unfolds. For instance, she helps Michiko get ready for the school play (as a friend, not a savior), Then in another chapter Beatrice goes to Michiko’s house to find out the reason that Michiko missed school and okay rehearsal. We find out about her mother’s plans for Michiko’s future which are in direct conflict to Michiko’s aspirations. The kids throw a farewell party for Michiko and Beatrice is right in the midst of it and leaves the party at one point to join Michiko and her uncle as they practice Kabuki.
    I don’t usually write a blogger after they have reviewed the book, but I did want to make sure you understand that I have no reason to write any story that applauds bullying. Who would? As a teacher of thirty eight years, I have witnessed too many situations that spring from a negative view point, but Bumbling Bea isn’t one of them. Thank you for your time. Deborah Baldwin

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