Ever since her parents died, young Bee has had two protectors: Pauline, who runs the hot dog cart with her in Ellis’ traveling show, and the old lady in the flappy hat, invisible to all but Bee.
In a distinct, heartfelt voice, Bee explains how both provide comfort when superstitious, often mean, townsfolk stare at the diamond-shaped birthmark on her face. When Ellis threatens to put her in a “look-see booth” to boost wartime ticket sales, then forces Pauline and Bee apart, Bee runs away and finds herself on the old lady Mrs. Potter’s doorstep. The setup is slow-moving and feels more coincidental than supernaturally driven, but the scenes of Bee adjusting to life with not one but two ghosts (a Mrs. Swift occupies the house, too) offer humor and inspiration. The spirited ladies are determined to make sure Bee is standing firmly on her own two feet before they disappear. A disabled schoolmate and her family help to ground Bee, too. Bee works hard, forges friendships and learns her family history. In a turn of events, she also rescues Pauline. If the parts are a bit disjointed and the ending pat, readers will still feel the magic when Bee finally holds her head high and lets her diamond shine.
Not quite a flawless gem, but there are plenty of moments that sparkle. (Historical fiction. 8-12)