09 January 2008
This is a slim volume but well worth a look. It tells a familiar story--precocious pre-teen has to adjust to new girlfriend in the life of her widower father. But there is a style to Catherine Bateson's storytelling which really sets this one apart. While the reader instantly sympathises with Bee as she bemoans the fact that no one understands her situation (and most of the adults really are surprisingly unsympathetic to the upheaval this is causing in her life), the girlfriend herself, Jazzi, is a thoroughly likable character, and there is real hope that the two of them can work on their relationship. The process is aided by events presented up-front (Jazzi taking Bee in as a confidant) and behind the scenes (the correspondence between Bee and her guinea pigs, Fifi and Lulu.) I found myself in tears at points in the story, mainly because Bateson does such an excellent job of revealing the communication gap between adults and children; how the gap would be so easy to bridge if the adults just remembered that the children are not adults themselves, that they don't think like adults. A perfect example is when Bee walks into her father's bedroom unannounced and discovers that Jazzi is there in bed with him. While the adults yell at her to go away, knock first, etc, etc, all Bee can think is, "Well how was I supposed to know that she was sleeping over?" How or why indeed.
While reading this, I was reminded of what an easy ride I had with my own step-son. I've always realised that I got off lightly, and that the credit goes to him. And as I read the ebb and flow of tension in Bee and Jazzi's relationship, I thanked God again that it was so! Pieceing together a family, as opposed to creating one, is a tricky business. Being Bee is a lovely way for young readers to see that it can be done successfully.