Children's Literature · MG & Kids Lit

Bumbling Bea by Deborah Baldwin


Level: 5 – 9
Beatrice thinks she has no acting talent but that doesn’t stop her from auditioning for the annual middle school play. She has two missions-winning the role of Pocahontas (which guarantees her popularity with the cool kids, at least in her mind) and grabbing the attention of her estranged father. Easy!

​Except a new girl from Japan shows up who is crazy in love with Kabuki Theater and ruins everything! So begins Beatrice’s diabolical and hilarious plan to scare away the visitor. Beatrice is sometimes sarcastic, sometimes very funny and always honest. This is a great book for those who love theater and every part of it–the good, the bad and the crazy.

Personal Thoughts 

When Beatrice auditions for the yearly middle school play, she’s sure that she’ll get the part of Pocahontas-and an instant pass to the “popular” group. But then Michiko, an exchange student from Japan, gets the part instead, and Beatrice is stuck with being the stage manager and Michiko’s rehearsal partner. At the same time, she has to deal with the absence of her dad at home and her annoying, rude alternate personality that she’s nicknamed Bumbling Bea. So she concocts a humorous and far-fetched plot to prevent Michiko from becoming the star of the show and put herself in the spotlight. Can Beatrice learn to control Bumbling Bea and be successful at acting-and friendship?

Beatrice, like all of us, has her pros and cons. She’s got even more on her mind than a typical pre-teen, and anyone who has done theater will understand her problems in the “show business.” Many who have been outperformed in an audition will feel a twinge of jealousy toward the person who has earned the part.

I was in a theater production once and greatly enjoyed it (I played Molly from Annie in a play featuring songs from Broadway musicals), but nowadays I prefer being in the audience. However, I have more recently participated in several orchestra concerts and talent shows, and I can clearly remember the exhilaration of a whole auditorium of people cheering and clapping for you.

My favorite part was when Michiko gets stuck in a bathroom stall and Beatrice apologizes to her for how mean she’s been. I liked it because they become friends afterwards, and Beatrice is nice to her for the rest of the book.

This book was funny, interesting, and holds your attention. Baldwin shows her prowess in not only drama and the performing arts, but also in writing. Bumbling Bea conveys a good message of friendship and kindness and perfectly captures the mind of a young teenager. 

Parental Advisory: some thematic elements

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